By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter
THE Philippine national youth team got the better of China in their clash of top Group B teams in the FIBA U18 Asian Championship in Thailand, winning, 73-63, on Tuesday to go undefeated in the group stage and book a direct pass to the quarterfinals of the tournament.
Displaying the steadiness and balance that have marked its campaign so far in the tournament, Batang Gilas kept the Chinese at bay to solidify its standing as one of the teams to beat in the U18 Asian Championship.
The match was tight right from the start with the two teams battling hard to establish control of the contest.
The Philippines topped the opening quarter, 18-15, and ditto the second frame to carry a 31-27 advantage midway into the key ball game.
In the third, led by Sean Ildefonso, Batang Gilas pulled away to hold a double-digit lead, 54-39, heading into the final 10 minutes.
While everybody thought China was ready to concede, it mounted a ferocious comeback in the fourth quarter, coming to within six points, 68-62, with 39 ticks to go,
But the Philippines was not to be denied of the win as it put the finishing touches on the game from the free-throw line.
Ildefonso led Batang Gilas with 18 points and seven boards while AJ Edu had 13 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks.
Guard Dalph Panopio had 12 points and eight rebounds with Kai Sotto chipping in 11 points and 10 boards. Miguel Oczon was the other Batang Gilas in double-digits in scoring with 11.
China, meanwhile, was paced by Haowen Guo with 24 markers.
For winning the group, Batang Gilas earned a one-day rest, joining other group winners Iran (Group A), Australia(Group C) and either South Korea or Chinese Taipei (Group D), which are still playing as of this writing.
The second- and third-place teams in the group stage battle it out in a playoff today to determine which of them get to join the early quarterfinal qualifiers.
Batang Gilas is to face the winner between Bahrain and the loser between the ongoing game of South Korea and Chinese Taipei in the quarterfinals on Thursday.