CHANGSHA, CHINA – The Philippines held off Japan in the second semifinal of the FIBA Asia Championship on Friday, riding a hot-shooting fourth period to advance to the final with an 81-70 win.
The 11-point final margin did not reflect the closeness of the game, as Japan stayed within reach throughout the first three quarters, but the Philippines pulled ahead with better long-range shooting and outscored Japan 27-16 in the final quarter for the win.
U.S.-born power forward Andray Blatche led the Philippines with 22 points and 13 rebounds, but it was Jayson William (20 points, seven assists) and Donaldo Hontiveros (18 points) who proved the difference-makers, combining to shoot 10-for-18 from the 3-point arc, ultimately running the Japanese defense ragged as it tried to counter the Philippines’ inside-outside threat.
Makoto Hiejima and Joji Takeuchi gave their all for Japan. Hiejima had a career-best game for the Japan national team, hitting nine field goals and all 10 of his free-throw attempts for a total of 28 points.
Takeuchi continued his excellent tournament, battling with the Philippines’ big men while scoring 18 points and pulling down 16 rebounds.
Ultimately, it was outside shooting that cost Japan, as the team missed all 11 of its 3-point attempts in the game. Despite converting 24 of 29 free throws, Japan lacked the offensive firepower to get the win.
The game was in the balance early, with the Philippines stretching to a five-point lead before Japan caught up with a flurry to end the first quarter ahead by one point, 17-16.
In the second quarter, the dominant themes of the game became obvious, with Japan moving the ball tirelessly in search of the best scoring chances while the Philippines relied on quicker shooting with very little movement or passing.
William managed a pair of 3-pointers to bring the Philippines back to a one-point lead, though Japan’s zone defense remained mostly effective as the teams battled to a 39-39 tie at the half.
For Japan, Hiejima was 8-for-14 from the floor with 22 points at the halfway mark, exceeding his previous tournament-game high of 19. Hiejima was well backed by Takeuchi’s eight points, and more importantly, nine rebounds, a statistic that was always going to be challenging with the Philippines’ large front-court players.
The Philippines was paced at the half by Blatche’s 16 points and eight rebounds with William, Hontiveros and Calvin Abueva also chipping in points.
Despite the positive start, things began to look ominous for Japan in the second half, as the Philippines keyed in on defense and Japan’s scoring options dried up. Free throws kept Japan in the game as Hiejima converted four from the line and Takeuchi two, tying the game at 54-54 at the end of the third quarter.
After baskets by Hontiveros and William to open the final quarter, Japan coach Kenji Hasegawa called timeout and drew up a great play that led to an open Takatoshi Furukawa layup. But Ranidel De Ocampo responded with a 3-pointer and later three free throws to give the Philippines an eight-point lead. Japan cut the lead to four, again from the free-throw line, but the Philippines’ wing Hontiveros hit two dagger 3s in the space of 90 seconds, putting the game out of Japan’s reach.
China made its way into the title game after downing Iran 70-57 in the other semifinal.
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