Speedy guard SJ Belangel banked in a three-pointer before the final buzzer to give the Gilas Pilipinas a thrilling 81-78 win over South Korea in the FIBA Asia qualifier on Wednesday at the Angeles City Foundation Gym in Pampanga.
Down by as much as 17, the Gilas fought back in the second half behind the heads-up plays of young 7-foot-4 center Kai Sotto, RJ Abarrientos, Dwight Ramos, Cebuano forward Carl Tamayo and naturalized player Ange Kouame, who scored a basket while getting fouled to give the Philippines a 78-75 lead.
Kouame, though, missed the bonus free-throw and Korea hurriedly brought the ball up the floor and found Hyunjung Lee who calmly sank a three-pointer from the right wing to tie the game at 78-all with just 2.9 seconds left.
Fortunately, Gilas had one last shot and took full advantage as Ramos inbounded the ball to Belangel, who took one dribble, spun and banked in a triple just as the final buzzer sounded to give the Philippines the heartpounding victory.
More importantly, the win assured the Philippines a slot in the main FIBA Asia Cup tournament that will be held in Indonesia this August. The Gilas now holds a perfect 4-0 (win-loss) record in Group A. They will be taking on Indonesia on Friday before battling South Korea once again on Sunday.
Ramos led Gilas with 16 points, five rebounds, two steals and a block while Belangel finished with 13 points, five boards and two assists. Kouame chipped in 12 markers, spiked by three triples while Sotto contributed 11 points and seven rebounds.
Tamayo, who hails from Talisay City, added 10 points.
Ricardo Ratcliffe paced South Korea with 24 points and 15 rebounds. (JNP)