Gilas Pilipinas almost had an upset in the bag but an inspired Lebanon side simply refused to lose in home soil and escaped with an 85-81 victory in the 4th window of the FIBA World Cup Asia qualifiers, Friday at the Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex in Zouk Mikael, Lebanon.
After Japeth Aguilar knotted the count at 78-all with 3 freebies, Lebanese guard Wael Arakji went on a tear and scored 5 straight points including the dagger triple which gave the hosts a 5-point lead, 83-78, with just 18 ticks left on the game clock.
Arakji finished with 24 points, including his team’s final 7, to go with 3 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal in 35 minutes of action.
The Filipinos opened the match with a 9-2 run and went on to lead by as much as 10 but turnovers made the big difference as Gilas committed 21 which resulted in 22 points for their opponents. The Cedars, on the other hand, turned the ball over just 9 times.
“We had too many turnovers. Turnovers were really the big difference in this ball game,” said Gilas head coach Chot Reyes.
Jordan Clarkson paced the Philippine national basketball team with 27 points on 6-of-7 shooting and only 2-of-9 from beyond the arc. The 30-year old Fil-Am added 7 assists, 6 rebounds and a team-high 4 turnovers to his tally.
Dwight Ramos backstopped the Utah Jazz guard with 18 points, game-highs of 10 boards and 6 steals plus 2 assists. Japeth Aguilar and Kai Sotto chipped in 11 and 10 markers, respectively.
Reigning PBA MVP Scottie Thompson had 4 points and 5 rebounds while Chris Newsome and Jamie Malonzo contributed 3 points each in their Gilas debut.
The Philippines, now with a 2-3 record in Group E, will try to bounce back when they take on Saudi Arabia on Monday, August 29, 7:00pm at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.