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TOKUSHIMA (FIBA Asia Championship) - "I just challenged my players to play all the 40 minutes like they played the last six minutes yesterday. And they rose to meet my challenge," beamed Philippines coach Vincent 'Chot' Reyes after his team caused a remarkable turnaround to down defending champions China on Sunday.
The 79-74 win, which pushed China effectively out of the contention for the Championship, left the Filipinos needing to beat Jordan on Monday to stay alive.
Having trailed all along, and faced up with a 56-57 deficit going into the final 10 minutes, Philippines fought tooth and nail and struck success.
Point guard Jim Alapag, whom Reyes called "the spiritual leader of our team", led the Philippines cause top scoring the game with 25 points along with five rebounds and three assists. Two of those assists, which Mark Anthony Caguioa converted, proved decisive for Philippines to take charge of the proceedings at the start of the fourth quarter.
China, on the other hand, looked bemused by their rivals' rally. Yi Li and Bo Wang, who otherwise had an impressive outing, went out of form and the fluency was lost. And thus the Chinese hopes of a fifth consecutive title disappeared.
"It was bound to happen, given the inexperience of the team," Chinese coach Adijiang reasoned out. "In fact, I was quite surprised they allowed us to build the lead. That way, I must say I'm satisfied with the way my team played before they fought back."
On China bowing out of the Championship race, Adijiang said, "I'm not surprised at all. When we decided to bring this team, we knew what to expect. Or to put it better, what not to expect."
Philippines 79 (Jim Alapag 25, Mark Anthony Caguioa 16, Kerby Raymondo 12) bt China 74 (Yi Li 14, Bo Wang 14, Ke Li 13). Quarterwise: 19-25, 38-49, 56-57.