SJ Belangel took matters into his own hands, sinking the game-winning three at the buzzer as Gilas Pilipinas stunned South Korea, 81-78, on Wednesday at the AUF Sports & Cultural Center in Angeles, Pampanga.
Tied at 78 with 02.9 seconds left in regulation, the Philippines turned to its smallest man on the floor to hit the biggest shot of the game. The 5-foot-10 Belangel called bank from beyond the arc off a Dwight Ramos inbound pass to complete Gilas' comeback.
With the win, the Filipinos, who bucked a lethargic start after trailing by as much as 17, remained immaculate in Group A with a 4-0 slate, securing a FIBA Asia Cup berth in the process.
Belangel, who stood his ground in lieu of the injured Matt Nieto, finished with 13 points, five rebounds and two assists in his seniors team debut. His heroics, though, wouldn't have been possible without the collective effort of the rest of Gilas.
Ramos led the team in scoring with 16 markers laced with five boards and two steals, as Carl Tamayo chipped in 10 points while RJ Abarrientos contributed six of his own.
The towering duo of Angelo Kouame and Kai Sotto also made their presence felt, as the former delivered a 12-point, six-rebound outing while the latter finished with 11 points and seven boards.
The Koreans, on the other hand, now hold a 2-1 card after suffering their first loss in the tournament.
Ra Gun-A spearheaded South Korea's thrust with 24 points and 15 rebounds that went down the drain.
Meanwhile, Lee Hyun Jung poured in 15 markers built on three triples, one of which came in the waning moments of regulation that almost sent the game to overtime.
Gilas Pilipinas shall face Indonesia on Friday (June 18).
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.
You may also be interested with: