Win against China avenges past defeats, but campaign is far fom over

BEIRUT (FIBA Asia Cup 2017) – Two years after their infamous Final loss in Changsha-Hunan, the Philippines dealt sweet vengeance against perennial tormentors China.

The Philippines have had a painful history facing China at the continental level, and by all indications, today’s game was supposed to be another notch in China’s favor. Entering this matchup, China had won 6 of their last 9 meetings with the Philippines at the senior men’s level.

The Chinese were bigger, deeper and had significantly longer preparation as they entered the Asia Cup 2017 in Beirut. With 2015 All-Star Five member Guo Ailun leading the way, China were heavily favored against Gilas Pilipinas, who were without prized naturalized player Andray Blatche and who recently lost key center June Mar Fajardo to injury.

As soon as the opening tip of today’s pivotal encounter, though, the Philippines were in overdrive. Coach Chot Reyes’s wards looked every bit like the favorites. They were throwing triple-teams at China, forcing turnovers, running in transition and hitting their three-point bombs.

The Filipinos channelled all the pent up frustration of the past and turned it into energy that they used to the hilt.

The duo of Jayson Castro and Terrence Romeo proved to be magical again for the Philippines, with Asia Cup newcomers Matthew Wright, Raymond Almazan and Christian Standhardinger also holding their own. Castro had 13 points and 7 assists, while Wright drained 2 triples en route to 12 points. Aguilar, for his part, was a defensive dynamo, recording 5 blocked shots.

This result pushed the Philippines as favorites to top Group B, and it will be interesting to see how they approach their next matches against the Qatar and Iraq.

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