MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATED) In a game played under surreal circumstances, the Philippines overcame another poor shooting night to overcome Qatar, 92-81, in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers on Monday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Philippines’ “sixth man” was absent as the game was played behind closed doors, as part of the country’s sanctions for its role in the controversial brawl against Australia last July at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Without the crowd to boost them, the Filipinos struggled to start the game and fell behind by as many as 17 points in the first half. Their three-point shooting — a massive issue in last week’s loss to Iran — was once again a problem as the hosts made only one of 15 triples in the first two quarters.
But a renewed commitment to defense changed the nature of the game for the Philippines in the third period. They limited Qatar to just 12 points in the third, entered the fourth with a 67-64 lead, and completely took over from there.
“The first half was just really bad shooting percentage, especially from the three-points,” said national team coach Yeng Guiao. “I think we shot just six percent -- and to think, these are the best shooters in the country. That’s really an aberration.”
“But I told them at halftime to just take the normal shots that they were taking, don’t mind the percentages. Just be focused on running the sets and executing the game plan,” he added. “And I think, the big difference was they really wanted to win.”
“These guys really wanted to win, and they showed that in the kind of defense that they played.”
After allowing Qatar to make seven of its 13 three-pointers in the first half, the Philippines would not give up a three-pointer the rest of the way. Moreover, they forced the visitors to nine turnovers in the second half, and converted them into ten easy points to fuel their breakaway.
Scottie Thompson proved to be a game-changer for the Philippines in the second quarter, with his relentless activity giving the hosts extra possessions. Also crucial was Japeth Aguilar, who drew an unsportsmanlike foul on Qatar’s Mohamed Hassan Mohamed with 3:30 left, and knocked down two charities to trim the deficit to one point, 57-58.
Aguilar made good on the bonus possession, draining a midrange jumper to give the Philippines a lead that it would not relinquish, 59-58.
Qatar last threatened with 6:22 to go, off an and-1 by veteran Mohd Yousuf Mohammed that made it a five-point game, 69-74.
But the visitors fell apart soon after, with Khalid Abdi Suliman getting called for two consecutive technical fouls that caused him to be thrown out of the game. Alex Cabagnot would make four free throws off Qatar’s fouls for a 78-69 lead, and Aguilar would later bank in another jump shot to give the Philippines its first double-digit advantage, 80-69, with 4:24 left.
The Philippines led by as many as 17 points, 86-69, before a late run by Qatar made the final score more respectable.
“Sabi ko lang, let’s be patient and stick to the game plan,” said Guiao. “It is almost impossible, if you play good defense, to sustain 54% three-point shooting.”
“So we just waited for them to miss those shots, and used our speed to our advantage,” he added. “We just kept running the whole game.”
Aguilar led the way for the Philippines with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Alex Cabagnot also contributed 16 points to go along with four boards and three dimes. Stanley Pringle (13 points) and Beau Belga (11 points) also reached double-digits.
Mohd Mohammed had 26 points for Qatar, while Tanguy Alban Ngombo and Nasser Khalifa Al-Rayes each had 17 points. But Qatar never recovered from its third quarter slump, and got a further blow when Khalid fouled out.
With the result, the Philippines kept hold of third place in Group F, with their 5-3 win-loss record. Qatar dropped to 2-6.
Australia continues to pace the group at 7-1, followed by Iran (6-2).
The national team will return to action on November 30, when it hosts Kazakhstan.
PHILIPPINES 92 -- Aguilar 16, Cabagnot 16, Pringle 13, Belga 11, Lee 8, Wright 6, Lassiter 5, Sangalang 5, Erram 4, Thompson 3, Taulava 3, Norwood 2.
QATAR 81 -- Mohammed MY 26, Al-Rayes 17, Ngombo 17, Khalid 10, Mohammed MH 4, Abdelbaset 3, Gueye 3, Abdelhaleem 1, Avdic 0, Lashin 0.
Quarters: 15-26, 39-52, 67-64, 92-81.
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