MANILA, Philippines - Energen Pilipinas overcame a tough, taller Kazakhstan, 83-69, to nail its second straight and gain some momentum and confidence going into its much-awaited showdown with powerhouse Iran in the 22nd FIBA-Asia Under-18 Championship at the Buyant-Ukhaa Arena in Ulan Bator, Mongolia yesterday.
Already assured of a spot in the second round, Mario Bonleon, a standout at La Salle-Greenhills, lit up the Kazakhs with 20 points including three booming triples while co-captain Rodolfo Alejandro, Janus Kyle Suarez and Hubert Cani scattered 18, 14 and 10 points, respectively, to help the Nationals post their second win.
Unlike in their 95-52 rout of Saudi Arabia Friday, the Filipinos ran into the more game Kazakhs, who finished second in Tehran, Iran four years ago, and needed a strong finish to preserve the victory that kept the former unscathed in two starts.
Although undersized, the Filipinos outrebounded the Kazakhs, 47-35, with Jay Javelosa, a 6-4 forward from Reedley, leading the way with 12 boards.
The win kept Energen Pilipinas unscathed in Group D with a 2-0 (win-loss) slate and another triumph over fancied Iran, which annihilated Kazakhstan, 105-46, the other day and is expected to roll over a listless Saudi Arabia side at press time, in their 4 p.m. duel today (Phl time) will clinch it the top seeding in the bracket.
The Filipinos, who made it here by sweeping the Southeast Asian Basketball Association U-18 Championship in Singapore last month, are expected to have their hands full against the Iranians, the 2008 champions and 2010 fourth placers.
“Next to China, Iran is one of the teams to beat because coach Rajko (Toroman) told me Iran is investing on its youth team now,” said Energen Pilipinas coach Olsen Racela before leaving for Mongolia.
Energen Pilipinas hopes to improve on its fifth place finish the last time in Sana’A, Yemen while aiming for one of the three berths in the 2013 FIBA World Under-19 Championship in Prague, Czech Republic.
Powerhouse China likewise remained undefeated after steamrolling India, 119-54, hiking its winning average to a whopping 85.5 points following its 153-47 demolition of Hong Kong in the opener.
Lebanon, which edged India, 65-61, also remained unbeaten with a 113-70 Hong Kong in Group A.
Energen Pilipinas 83 – Bonleon 20, Alejandro 18, Suarez 14, Cani 10, Pingoy 4, Porter 4, Rivero 4, Babilonia 3, Olayon 2, Lao 2, Nambatac 2, Javelosa 0
Kazakhtsan 69 – Kurochka 22, Maxutov 22, Marchuk 14, Zhumabek 5, Nalogov 3, Kadstin 2, Nurkhanov 1, Torktarov 0, Kryachko 0, Agarychev 0, Tulepbergenov 0, Korotkiy 0
Quarterscores: 18-18; 38-30; 55-52; 83-69