MANILA, Philippines – Batang Gilas opened their campaign in the FIBA Under-16 Asian Championship on a winning note, as they fended off a gritty Malaysian squad 62-57 on Monday afternoon at the Foshan Lingnan Mingzhu Gymnasium in Foshan, China.
It was a tough outing for the young Filipinos, who struggled with their shot all game long, particularly from beyond the arc. They converted only 27.59% of their shots, including only two of 27 three-point attempts.
Terrence Fortea scored 15 points on 21 shots, while Raven Cortez had a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds in just 18 minutes and 19 seconds of playing time. Kai Sotto had 12 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks, but shot only two of ten at the free throw line.
After struggling to get separation all game long, Batang Gilas finally earned some breathing room in the fourth period. Cortez and Fortea conspired to give the Philippines its first double-digit lead, 57-46, with 6:28 left to play in the game.
They would go on to lead by 13 points, 59-46, off a Cortez bucket with 5:11 to go. But the Malaysians were tenacious and they would make it a five-point game, 62-57, with still a minute to play following a three-pointer by John Tang.
Missed free throws by Forthsky Padrigao and Joshua Lorenzo would keep Malaysia in the game, but the Filipinos held on as their foes fired blanks from the perimeter in the final minute of the contest.
Batang Gilas out-rebounded Malaysia, 79-60, and had 24 offensive boards that led to 16 second chance points.
However, their struggles on offense were evident as Batang Gilas missed even open lay-ups. They also converted only 12 of 30 free throw attempts, further giving Malaysia the opening it needed to stay competitive.
John Tang led Malaysia with 17 points. The Malaysians did not shoot any better, making only 23.17% of their attempts. However, they had 10 three-pointers in the game to help their cause.
Batang Gilas will have a day off on Tuesday before playing powerhouse Australia on Wednesday morning.