Matthew Wright had his best outing so far for Gilas Pilipinas, helping his team avoid an upset by Qatar, 80-74, in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup on Sunday night at a packed Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex in Beirut, Lebanon.
With the victory, Gilas will end the group phase unscathed, as they have swept all their three games in Group B. Qatar, meanwhile, bowed out of contention with a 0-3 card.
Wright finished with a game-high 25 points, going 7-of-12 from the outside. The Fil-Canadian was also instrumental in helping Gilas avert a hijack by the Qataris in the last period, when their 19-point lead became just five.
Gilas posted their first-ever double-digit lead in the opening frame, 23-11, after Wright’s trey. They sustained the upper hand from there, and even led by as much as 20, 49-29, after Gabe Norwood’s triple with 7:49 in the third canto.
However, the Middle Eastern dribblers made the game interesting once more late in the payoff period. The Qataris inched within striking distance, 75-70, after an Abdulrahman Al Muftah lay-up with 2:06 remaining.
Gilas though did not crumble after that. Wright nailed a corner triple seconds later, and Terrence Romeo turned Japeth Aguilar’s pass to an assist as he made a shot from point-blank range to widen the gap, 80-72, with 31 ticks left.
Qatar still made another basket 19 seconds later, but time was not on their side anymore as Gilas held the ball until the final buzzer sounded.
Carl Cruz continued his stellar play for Gilas, scoring 13 markers on 3-of-9 shooting from downtown. Romeo had 10 points, while Norwood displayed all-around effort with 10 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and two blocks.
The Filipinos managed to come out victorious even with the absence of Christian Standhardinger due to shoulder problems, and Calvin Abueva’s limited playing time as he slipped on the court twice and hurt his left foot.
The Qataris were led by Mansour Elhadary with 23 points. Abdulrahman Saad backed him up with 18 markers.
Gilas shot 39.4 percent from the floor, but made up for it in the rebounding department as they outworked Qatar, 42-34. Their bench also contributed greatly as they chipped in 32 points. Both teams though had identical 17 turnovers.
Gilas will have a two-day rest before embarking on the tournament quarterfinals on Wednesday, August 16, where it will face either Japan or South Korea.
Gilas Pilipinas 80 – Wright 25, Cruz 13, Norwood 10, Romeo 10, Castro William 6, Pogoy 5, Almazan 4, Aguilar 3, Abueva 2, Jalalon 2.
Qatar 74 – Elhadary 23, Saad 18, Erfan 9, Abdelhaleem 8, Al-Muftah 6, Mohamed 6, Mohmmed 4, Abdelkawy 0, Al-Darwish 0, Al-Rayes 0.
Quarterscores: 25-16, 41-27, 59-47, 80-74.