Gilas Pilipinas is headed to the FIBA Under-17 Basketball World Cup.
This, after they stunned Japan, 64-59, in the quarterfinals of the FIBA Under-16 Asian Championship early Sunday morning (Manila time) behind a star-making performance from Kieffer Alas.
Alas had a game-high 29 points -- 14 in the pivotal third period -- as the Gilas Under-16 squad booked a place in the semifinals of the tournament in Doha, Qatar.
All semifinalists also punched tickets to next year's U17 World Cup in Turkiye.
The Philippines trailed 35-25 against Japan but they turned the tables in the third frame, when they out-scored Japan 21-10. Alas was unstoppable in the period, while Joaquin Ludovice -- the hero of their win against South Korea -- put them ahead entering the final quarter with a triple, 46-45.
Ludovice's triple gave the Gilas Youth the momentum they needed, and they made the biggest plays down the stretch to hold off Japan. Alas assisted on back-to-back buckets by Bonn Daja to give the Gilas Youth a 64-59 lead with under a minute left, and their defense held firm the rest of the way.
Alas added nine rebounds, three assists, and a steal to his statline, while Ludovice had 11 points and Kurt Velasquez added 10 points.
Shogo Takata led Japan with 12 points, but they were forced to a paltry 3-of-30 shooting from long distance and just 32.5% overall. They had a 58-36 rebounding advantage, but also committed 19 turnovers that led to 20 points for the Gilas Youth.
Gilas Youth advanced to play Australia in the semifinals, while New Zealand and China face off in the other bracket.