By JONAS TERRADO
SJ Belangel scored a buzzer-beating three to give Gilas Pilipinas a thrilling 81-78 victory over South Korea Wednesday to clinch a spot in the FIBA Asia Cup at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center in Pampanga.
Belangel’s off-balanced shot from the right elbow off Seounghyun Lee using the glass enabled coach Tab Baldwin’s squad to overcome a 17-point first half deficit and win their first of two meetings with South Korea in the third window of the Asia Cup Qualifiers.
Gilas climbed to a perfect 4-0 record in Group A to book its place in the continental competition slated mid-August in Jakarta.
It also ended the Philippines’ five-game losing streak against South Korea, winning for the first time since the emotional semifinal win in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship at Mall of Asia Arena.
The heroics of the Ateneo guard came after South Korea tied things up with a precise execution following Ange Kouame’s missed bonus foul shot that resulted in Hyunjung Lee’s three, 2.9 seconds left.
Meanwhile, China defeated Japan, 66-57, to kick off its campaign in the continental qualifiers.
Zhou Peng topscored with 16 points while Zijie Chen added 11 points and five rebounds for China, which made its Asia Cup Qualifiers debut after skipping the first two windows due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Makoto Hiejima and Kosuke Kanamaru finished with 12 points apiece for Japan, which dropped to 1-1 in Group B.