MANILA (Mabuhay) – The Philippine national men’s basketball team opened the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship on a losing note, dropping a stunning 75-73 result to Palestine on Wednesday in Changsha, China.
Jamal Abu-Shamala led Palestine with 26 points, including two big three-pointers late in the game, to give the West Asian side a win in its maiden appearance in the Asian championship.
Gilas Pilipinas looked like it was about to break away in the fourth quarter, unleashing an 11-2 run to go up by double-digits, 70-59.
But Palestine had its most furious torrent, taking a 73-72 lead with 1:38 remaining after back-to-back three-pointers from Abu-Shamala.
Naturalized center Andray Blatche scored after an offensive rebound in the next possession to put the Philippines back up, 74-73.
But Gilas yielded the go-ahead three-point play in the next possession to Sani Sakanini with 15.8 seconds left.
Blatche’s three-point attempt in the next Gilas possession was blocked, and the Philippines was unable to complete the inbound on the final play to allow Palestine to escape.
It was a shocking result after the Philippines dominated most of the game from the get-go against Palestine, which was considered the mystery team of the tournament.
Gilas had a promising start behind Blatche, who displayed much better form than in the team’s tuneup matches leading into the tournament.
The naturalized scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds in the first quarter that saw the Philippines jump to a 27-12 lead.
But Palestine came alive in the second period after Blatche committed two quick fouls. The West Asian side took advantage, closing the first half with a 14-5 run to cut the Gilas lead to just five, 45-40, at the break.
Gilas had a spurt to begin the third quarter, building up a 12-point bubble, 52-40, on a layup by Ranidel De Ocampo. Instead of crumbling, however, Palestine used a zone to flummox the Gilas offense to battle back to within striking distance, 59-55, heading in to the final period.
The Philippines took the upper hand early in the fourth and looked like it had the game in the bag before Palestine’s devastating run.
Abu Shamala, a former United States NCAA stalwart for University of Minnesota, finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds in a heroic effort for Palestine, which is making its debut in the FIBA Asia Championship.
Blatche scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Terrence Romeo and Jayson Castro added 11 and 10 points, respectively, for Gilas, which will try to bounce back on Thursday against Hong Kong. (MNS)