by Jonas Terrado
Game Monday (Mall of Asia Arena)
7:30 p.m. – Philippines vs Iran
Gilas Pilipinas was put in a precarious situation last night after Kazakhstan’s offensive plays worked to near perfection in pulling off a 92-88 upset in the 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers before a disappointed crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Rustam Yergeli’s drop pass against two defenders allowed Anton Bykov to score an easy layup with 12.7 seconds left to give Kazakhstan a 92-88 lead that left Gilas wasting a golden opportunity of tying Iran for second place in Group F.
Instead, the Philippines fell to a tie for third place with Japan at 5-4 before facing Iran in a crucial battle on Monday at the same venue.
A victory would have placed Gilas in a share of second with Iran after the latter was crushed by Australia, 76-47, in Melbourne while Japan continued its surge with an 86-47 rout of Qatar at home in Toyama. Japan plays host to Kazakhstan also on Monday.
Australia became the first team in Group F to qualify for the World Cup after improving to 8-1 while Iran fell to 6-3.
The top three teams in the group advance to next year’s World Cup in China, though the fourth placer can qualify depending on the status of its counterpart in Group E.
Stanley Pringle, who top-scored with 25 points, gave the Philippines its last lead after a layup made it 84-83 with 1:55 remaining in the fourth.
But Pringle fouled Nikolay Bazhin with Gilas in penalty, allowing the Kazakh player to convert two free throws, 1:40 left.
That set up a final stretch that favored Kazakhstan as Bazhin scored off a Pringle miss and a baseball pass by a teammate before Bykov and Yergali made four consecutive freebies against Pringle’s layup to extend the visitor’s advantage at 90-85, 34.2 left.
Marcio Lassiter’s three gave Gilas some life, trimming the gap to 90-88, but Yergali and Bykov set up the basket that sealed Kazakhstan’s fourth win in nine matches in the qualifiers.