Shot of Confidence: Terrence Romeo leads Gilas to breakthrough win over China

Terrence Romeo proved he’s worthy of a spot in the Final 12 as he carried Gilas Pilipinas in a scintillating performance against Asian rival China to salvage some measure of revenge in a morale-boosting 72-69 win Monday (Manila time) at the Palodozza in Bologna, Italy. 

Just a few hours after Tab Baldwin made the final cut leaving veteran point guard LA Tenorio and energetic forward Calvin Abueva out of the final lineup, Romeo had a statement game firing 18 points on 3-of-4 three-point with two rebounds and an assist in just 19 minutes of play.

Romeo saved his best for last, scoring the bulk of his output in the fourth quarter including back-to-back crucial triples, just as when China threatened to steal the game away after coming back from a 10-point third quarter deficit.

Andray Blatche tied the game at 63-all before Romeo took over connecting two straight from long distance against a basket by China to give Gilas a 4-point cushion, 69-65, with 2:28 left in the game. Blatche and Marc Pingris put on the finishing touches as Gilas avenged their gold medal match loss in the FIBA Asia tournament last year in China.

The Rio Olympics-bound China though rested their top guns Yi Jianlian and Zhou Qi, who was picked by the Houston Rockets in the 2nd round (43rd) of the NBA Draft just last week. But nevertheless, the win was a much needed shot of confidence for Gilas after suffering back-to-back routs at the hands of Turkey and Italy by an average of 35.5 points.

Zhou Peng led the Chinese with 18 points and 10 rebounds while Wang Zhelin, who was also drafted in the second round (57th) by the Memphis Grizzlies, had 9 points and 7 boards.

Tab Baldwin was pleased with the effort of the team especially against the team that punched the lone Asian ticket to the Olympics.

“It’s good to get out of this trip with a win,” Baldwin told Sports5 correspondent Carlo Pamintuan after the game.

“China has what we want right now. They are the best team in Asia and they have an Olympic slot but we want them to feel that we’re going for that spot,” Baldwin added.

The American-Kiwi mentor also noted that the team built on the positives from their 36-point loss to host Italy especially in the second quarter where they outscored the Italians, 47-42.

Josh Reyes, Baldwin’s assistant coach, is also hoping that this breakthrough win will push them to the level they wanted to be just in time for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament two weeks from now.

Blatche added 14 points and 12 rebounds but only shot 4-of-19 against China’s towering frontline. Jeff Chan, who only played in the second half against Italy, came out with his guns blazing going 4-of-4 from the field, including two triples, to finish with 10 points that went with 2 rebounds and 2 assists. Jayson Castro had 9.

The national team is expected to arrive Tuesday night and will play their final tuneup game — a rematch against Turkey on July 1 at the Mall of Asia Arena. – By Alder Almo

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo