Despite blowing a 14-point halftime lead, Gilas Pilipinas hung on for a 96-87 victory over China on Wednesday to open Group B play at the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup in Zouk Mosbeh, Lebanon.
Filipino guard Terrence Romeo led all scorers with 26 points, as he hit 9-of-14 attempts from the field, including five of his seven looks from three-point range.
The win represented a measure of revenge for the Philippines, as China defeated it in the 2015 FIBA Asia Cup championship game.
Gilas jumped all over China early to seize a 26-16 lead after the first quarter, and it continued to build on that advantage in the second.
Romeo was key during that onslaught, as he made a number of highlight-reel plays, including this nifty pass to an open Raymond Almazan in the second quarter, courtesy of Sports5:
Terrence Romeo sets up Raymond Almazan for an empathic throwdown! #LabanPilipinas #PUSO https://t.co/y7VEzctk0L2017-8-9 11:36:58
While Romeo's playmaking was on display with four assists, he was at his most dangerous when shooting.
China lost track of him far too often from long range, and it resulted in some uncontested trifectas, as seen in this video from FIBA:
.@tbvromeo & @officialSBPinc on 🔥 in #Lebanon🇱🇧 #FIBAAsiaCup2017 👀 https://t.co/ooYdyyrTlo https://t.co/j9GDy9Hfgi2017-8-9 11:08:25
The momentum was firmly on Gilas' side entering the second half, as China was struggling in all facets, including shooting from both the field and the free-throw line.
That continued for much of the third quarter, and Romeo took advantage by extending the Philippines' lead with his hot-shooting ways:
🚨 Lights 💡 OUT 😱 @tbvromeo #FIBAAsiaCup2017 ➡️https://t.co/ooYdyyrTlo https://t.co/umCf1i48rF2017-8-9 11:53:12
Gilas led by as many as 17 points, but China flipped the switch in the closing minutes of the third quarter and entered the fourth trailing by just six points.
The Chinese side seized the lead with less than six minutes remaining in the game at 83-82, but the shooting went cold from there, as China scored just four points the rest of the way.
Romeo tied the game at 87-87 with a three-pointer at the 3:55 mark and then put the Philippines back on top for good with a layup one minute later.
Although Romeo was the unquestioned star, he had plenty of help.
Forward Christian Standhardinger chipped in 15 points and a team-high six rebounds, while guard Jayson Castro added 13 points and seven assists, and was a team-best plus-14.
Following the full team effort, legendary former Filipino basketball star Jimmy Alapag chimed in regarding its significance:
Jimmy Alapag @JAlapag3
HUGE effort from our Gilas team 2nyt!!! Great start to the tournament!! On to the next one... #PUSO 🇵🇭🏀❤️2017-8-9 12:29:35
China benefited from strong performances in the form of Guo Ailun's team-high 18 points and Zhou Peng's 17.
Despite a sluggish start, China had its opportunities to win. Its issues from the charity stripe primarily prevented that, however.
China connected at just a 43.8 percent clip from the line, while the Philippines hit 81.5 percent.
The win is an important one for Gilas, as it is now heavily favored to win the group and advance straight to the quarterfinals.
China is still in good shape to advance, but if it doesn't win the group and instead finishes second or third, it will have to take a more difficult path through a playoff round.