Just one win away from ending 43 year Olympic appearance drought. Gilas Pilipinas defeated Japan 81-70 in the semifinals of the FIBA Asia Championship on Friday to set up a final with hosts China. The gold medalists clinch an automatic berth in Rio Olympics. Gilas last featured in the Olympics way back in 1972 in Munich. Philippines bowed down against Iran in the finals of the last edition.
“It really just came down to our guys making a few plays in the last minute and a half,” said Gilas coach Tab Baldwin, who makes his own return to the FIBA Asia gold medal game after leading Jordan to that spot in 2011.
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Japan took every advantage of Gilas’ mistakes and put up a strong resistance. At times, they were tantalizingly close to Gilas. At the end of the third quarter, the scores were tied at 54-all. Makoto Hiejima played the game of his career and notched up 28 points.
“Very smart team, very tough team. We were very fortunate,” Baldwin said about the Japanese side.
Gilas broke free in the final quarter outplaying Japan 27-16.
Hosts China defeated reigning champions Iran 70-57 in the first semifinals at the CSWC Arena in Changsha. China led 21-12 at the end of the first quarter and maintained their advantage through-out. This ends Iran’s pole-position in the FIBA Asia Championship.
“We’re going into tomorrow’s game playing for the gold. They’ll believe that they can do that. After that game tomorrow, China will know that they’ve faced a tough team,” he said.
Baldwin sounded confident.
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