The Philippine national men’s basketball team blew a huge 19-point lead but managed to hang on to edge hosts Chinese Taipei, 77-69, to begin its campaign in the 37th William Jones Cup Sunday night at the Xinchuang Gymnasium in New Taipei City, Taiwan.
Gilas Pilipinas led by as much as 19 points in the first half, but allowed the Taiwanese to erase it and even tie it entering the final quarter.
However, big buckets by Terrence Romeo and Jayson Castro rescued Gilas Pilipinas as they opened the tournament with a win.
Just their fourth competitive game as a team, Gilas Pilipinas got off to a rousing 7-0 start against the hosts.
But the Taiwanese slowly got their shooting touch and gained the lead, 16-13. However, the Filipinos got a boost from Romeo who subbed in late in the period.
The PBA Most Improved Player quickly made his presence felt, wreaking havoc on the driving lanes with his acrobatic layups. He got a steal for an easy two right before the first period buzzer sounded with Gilas Pilipinas ahead, 26-20.
Romeo had a total of nine points off the bench in the first period, but he wasn’t finished as he was joined by fellow Gilas Pilipinas newcomers Calvin Abueva and Moala Tautuaa in providing the energy for the team.
After Tautuaa opened the second quarter with a thunderous putback jam, Romeo put on a dribbling clinic and escaped past Taiwan star Lin Chih-chieh with a killer crossover move before hanging in the air against naturalized player Quincy Davis for a scintillating layup.
Abueva then had his own show, flashing his daredevil drives and layups at the expense of the Chinese Taipei defense. Those plays sparked a 16-4 run that gave Gilas Pilipinas its biggest lead at 19 points, 47-28.
However, Chinese Taipei rallied in the third quarter — reminiscent of what happened during its win over the Filipinos in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship. The Taiwanese started to convert their outside shots while Davis began to assert himself down low.
Coupled with turnovers and shooting woes by Gilas Pilipinas, Chinese Taipei was able to come back and tie the game at 54-all entering the final frame after outscoring the Filipinos in the third period, 23-7.
Abueva kept the Filipinos afloat in the fourth period with his energy as Chinese Taipei kept on threatening. Gilas Pilipinas also lost big men Tautuaa and Asi Taulava in the dying seconds after fouling out.
But Romeo and Castro sank crucial baskets late in the game. With Chinese Taipei just down by three, Romeo fired a bailout triple at the shotclock buzzer to push Gilas Pilipinas’ lead, 71-65, with over a minute left.
Castro then nailed a floater, Romeo made another tough layup and Castro got away with an easy two as they extended the Filipinos’ lead to 10, 77-67, with 58.32 ticks left and put the result beyond reach.