Gilas boys book World Cup entry

John Bryan Ulanday - The Philippine Star
Gilas boys book World Cup entry
Kieffer Alas

MANILA, Philippines — From Manila to Surabaya to Doha and now, Turkey.

The red-hot Gilas Pilipinas boys took down erstwhile unbeaten Japan, 64-59, to advance to the FIBA U16 Asian Championship semifinals and punch an outright ticket to the 2024 FIBA U17 World Cup yesterday at the Al-Gharafa Sports Club Multi-Purpose Hall in Doha, Qatar.

Gilas, which started its campaign by sweeping the SEABA Qualifiers in Indonesia, clawed back from 10 points down in the third quarter versus Japan to barge into the Final Four and book a return trip to the world stage slated in Turkey.

The Philippines last qualified in the U17 World Cup in 2018 during the golden era of triple towers Kai Sotto, Carl Tamayo and AJ Edu, who carried the squad all the way to the U19 World Cup.

This time albeit with an undersized crew, the resilient Gilas boys achieved the feat anew with Kieffer Louie Alas leading the way to arrange a gigantic Final Four duel with two-time reigning champion Australia.

Alas, son of seasoned mentor Louie and brother of NLEX Road Warriors star Kevin, exploded for 29 points and nine rebounds on top of three assists, a steal and a block as Gilas claimed its fourth straight victory after a debut 84-67 loss to China.

Joaquin Gabriel Ludovice, after sizzling for 25 points in Gilas’ 95-71 win over South Korea the other day, added 11 while Kurt Nathan Velasquez chipped in 10 points and five steals.

As Gilas stared at a 34-44 deficit, the troika teamed up in steering a 12-1 rally ignited by Alas’ jumper and punctuated by Ludovice’s triple to give Gilas a 46-45 lead entering the fourth quarter.

With Gilas holding a 60-57 lead in the last two minutes, Alas played decoy and dished out a couple of key assists to Bonn Ervin Daja, who delivered the finishing kick with back-to-back baskets.

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