By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
CHINA survived a spirited challenge from the Philippines in their preliminary Group D match at the 18th Asian Games on Tuesday, winning, 82-80, at the Gelora Bung Karno Basketball Hall in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Regaining their composure just in time to snatch back the win, the Chinese avoided opening their Asiad bid with a disaster as they held on for the win in a game that proved to be too close for comfort for them.
The Philippines got off to a fast start as JP Erram and Jordan Clarkson helped their team to an early 5-0 lead in the first minute of the opening quarter.
China though would go on a 7-0 blast in the next two minutes as big man Zhou Qi waxed hot to help overtake the Philippines, 7-5.
It would use it as a springboard to build a 20-12 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
The Chinese continued to dominate to start the second quarter, outscoring the Philippines, 7-3, to extend their lead to 12 points, 27-15, at the 7:16 mark.
But led by Mr. Clarkson and Paul Lee, the Filipinos would make headway in its attempt to rally back, coming to within six points, 31-25, with two minutes remaining and slashing their deficit some more to 36-31 by the halftime break.
The two teams jostled to begin the third quarter.
The count stood at 47-42 with 6:17 remaining before China went to score five straight points to make it a 10-point lead, 52-42, after a minute.
But Mr. Clarkson, getting it done beyond the arc, would not allow the Philippines to lose further ground after, towing his team to level the count at 55-all at the 2:36 mark.
The Chinese though eventually survived the Philippine charge back, holding a 59-57 lead after three quarters.
In the fourth period, Abudurexit Abudushalamu would jump-start China’s offense, helping his team create further distance, 74-66, midway into the frame.
Messrs. Erram, Pringle and Lee then conspired to rack up eight straight points to tie the count anew at 74-all with 3:46 to go.
The Philippines went on to seize the lead, 76-74, after two free throws by Christian Standhardinger at the three-minute mark.
A basket by Pringle with 2:38 left on the clock to extend the Philippines’ lead to three, 78-75. The Filipinos held a two-point cushion, 80-78, entering the final minute before Zhao Rui rallied his team back, scoring off the break to tie the score at 80-all and hitting crucial free throws with 13 seconds to go to get the lead back, 82-80.
Mr. Lee had a chance to win the game for the Philippines but his three-point heave failed to connect, preserving the win for the Chinese.
Mr. Zhou led China with 25 points while Wang Zhelin had 13.
Messrs. Abudurexit and Zhao finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Mr. Clarkson had 28 points with Mr. Stanhardinger adding 18 and Mr. Pringle 14.
Despite the loss, it is highly likely that the Philippines will advance to the quarterfinals after drubbing Kazakhstan, 96-59, in its tournament opener.
China and Kazakhstan play their Group D match today.
By Michael Angelo S. Murillo