Dennis Gasgonia, ABS-CBN News
Sam Belangel drilled the game-winning triple as Gilas Pilipinas stunned archrival South Korea, 81-78, in their opening match in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers at the Angeles City Foundation Gym on Wednesday.
It was a tough shot by Belangel who had to fake an attempt before twisting sideways for the trey to evade the outstretched arms of a South Korean defender.
The victory was sweet for the Philippines, which overhauled a 17-point deficit before squeezing past the RA Guna-powered South Koreans. It also assured the Philippines of a ticket in the FIBA Asia Cup in Indonesia.
Belangel went 5-of-9 from the field, including the buzzer-beating triple, to finish with 13 points.
Dwight Ramos topscored for Gilas with 16 markers, while twin towers Ange Kouame and Kai Sotto contributed 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Initially, the South Koreans came charging with superior firepower as RA and US NCAA player Lee Hyun-jung took turns in lighting up the Filipinos for a 33-16 lead.
Gilas found its stride late in the second quarter when Sotto started making his presence felt. By the time Kouame drilled his buzzer-beating trey to end the half, Gilas was only behind by 8 markers.
The nationals then made a strong push in the next quarter until Ramos’ driving lay-up knotted the score 52-all late in the period.
But the South Koreans managed to reclaim the lead after RA’s dunk and Jeon Seong-hyen’s triple, 75-70.
It was neck-and-neck down to the last minute even as Lee drained a trey to tie the count 78-all 2 seconds remaining in the clock.
Coach Tab Baldwin then quickly sued for time and drew the play which saw Ramos doing the inbound that led to Belangel’s triple.
RA topscored for South Korea with 24 points to go with his 15 rebounds, while Lee had 15 markers.
Gilas will next battle Indonesia, which will be headed by former PBA import Lester Prosper.
The Philippines is clustered with South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand in Group A of the competition.