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Gilas Pilipinas settled an old score against its Asian rival China as the Filipinos hammered a 72-69 victory in a highly physical match to finish third overall in a pocket tournament last Sunday (early Monday Philippine Time) at The Palazzo in Bologna, Italy.
Ace guard Terrence Romeo scored 13 of his 18 points in the fourth period, using several dazzling moves to the basket and long bombs as the national team stunned the Rio Olympics bound China.
The victory came a few hours after national team mentor Tab Baldwin announced his final 12 for the Manila Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) slated July 5 to 10 at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City.
The win, likewise, was a big boost to Gilas following lopsided defeats the past several days, first against Turkey in an exhibition game in Istanbul (103-68), and to Italy at the start of the pocket tournament (106-70).
But more importantly, it was a triumph against a bitter rival.
The match that saw several skirmishes, which came at boiling point when Gilas forward Ranidel de Ocampo and a Chinese player were both ejected from the game.
China opted to play sans its top players, former NBA player Yi Jianlian and Zhou Qi, the 7-foot-2 promising center selected by the Houston Rockets in the second round of last week’s NBA Rookie Draft.
Unlike in the previous games of the national team, Baldwin played with only 12 players – instead of 14 – who were named to the OQT roster. The two who were cut, LA Tenorio and Calvin Abueva, watched from behind the bench as they cheered their Gilas brothers.
The national team is set to arrive today after nearly a month of training in Europe, including a nine-day training camp in Greece, a tune up match in Turkey and capped by this pocket tournament in Italy.
Gilas is expected to play two more friendly matches against Turkey and possibly Canada before the OQT.
GILAS 72 – Romeo 18, Blatche 14, Chan 10, Castro 9, Reyes 5, Fajardo 5, Pingris 3, Rosario 3, Norwood 2, Aguilar 2, Parks 1, De Ocampo 0.
CHINA 69 – Zhou 18, Zhai 15, Ding 11, Wang 9, Zhao 5, G. Li 4, Zou 4, Sui 2, Jia 1, Q. Zhou 0, M. Li 0, Guo 0, Kelambaike 0, Y Zhao 0.
Quarters: 22-23, 34-34; 54-51, 72-69.