Gilas Pilipinas’ Jimmy Alapag sank crucial free throws in the final seconds in overtime to carry Gilas past Senegal with naturalized center Andray Blatche fouled out of the game.
Blatche and Alapag scored 18 points each while June Mar Fajardo contributed 15 points and 9 rebounds to lift Gilas to victory in its final game in the league after losing four tightly contested games.
The Philippine team’s win is the first at FIBA since July 12, 1974 when they defeated Central African Republic in another close fight, 87-86.
Gilas led Senegal 37-24 at halftime, with both teams coming from a slow start. But Senegal retaliated in the third quarter, outsourcing the Philippine team 20-12 to narrow the margin to just 5.
Senegal finally took the lead with 2:29 remaining in the fourth quarter, but Fajardo’s big slam brought the lead back to the Philippines 62-61 with just two minutes left in the game.
Blatche increased the lead to 3 with a strong basket in the paint, 64-61. But Senegal responded again with a big three to tie the game while Tenorio and Blatche missed their final attempts to avert overtime.
During the overtime, the game was tied again at 69 until Fajardo scored a basket coming from a high-low play. With Senegal in foul trouble, Gilas made the most of the charities, sinking one free throw after another thanks mostly to Alapag’s composure.
With the victory over Senegal, the national team will be flying back to the country with a 1-4 debut at the World Cup.
San Beda team manager and basketball analyst Jude Roque said Gilas’ experience in Spain gives them a boost for the upcoming Asian tournament.
“Magandang kumpiyansa to papunta sa Asian Games. Siyempre mataas na level of competition ito eh. Ngayon alam na ng mga players natin na kaya nating tumapat sa mga mas malalakas na team,” Roque said.
Gilas will kick off its Asiad campaign on September 23 against the top placer in Group A, which brackets Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Palestine and India, according to a report.
In the latest development, the Incheon Asian Games Organizing Committee (IAGOC) has disqualified Blatche from playing for Gilas in the Asian tournament.
The panel said naturalized players should establish a three-year residence in the country he is representing.
The Philippine Sports Commission meanwhile has appealed to have Blatche replaced by Marcus Douthit in the lineup.