Calvin Oftana and CJ Perez, who faced a tough outing just two days ago, made a sensational comeback on Monday, October 2, during an electrifying first half. Their stellar performance propelled Gilas Pilipinas to a resounding 80-41 victory over Qatar, setting the stage for a thrilling quarterfinal clash with Iran in the 19th Asian Games at the Zhejiang University Zijingang Gymnasium.
The much-anticipated face-off with Asian powerhouse Iran is set for high noon on Tuesday, October 3, at the same venue. A shot at the Final Four and a potential bronze medal are on the line for both teams.
In the other quarterfinal matchups, China will face the winner of the knockout game between South Korea and Bahrain, Jordan will meet Saudi Arabia at 4 p.m., and Japan will take on China at 8 p.m.
At press time, Korea and Bahrain were battling in a crucial qualification match for a spot in the quarters. Saudi Arabia secured a convincing 95-72 victory over Hong Kong, while Chinese-Taipei dispatched Kazakhstan with a final score of 83-62.
The victors of the round of 8 will advance to the semifinals on Wednesday, October 4, with games scheduled at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center. Additionally, classification games for 5th/8th places will be held on the same day at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the Zhejiang University Zijingang Gymnasium.
Calvin Oftana, before sustaining a minor injury, made an explosive return to form after going scoreless against Jordan. He sank three consecutive 3-pointers, matching Justin Brownlee’s 9 points, propelling Gilas to a commanding 33-13 lead in the first quarter. CJ Perez capped off the quarter with a buzzer-beating triple, concluding a remarkable 15-0 run.
With a staggering 57-23 lead at halftime, Coach Tim Cone took the opportunity to rest key players like Brownlee, June Mar Fajardo, and Scottie Thompson in preparation for the anticipated showdown with Iran.
The Nationals exhibited exceptional field goal accuracy, boasting a 71 percent shooting rate (12 of 17) in the first quarter, leaving the Qataris struggling at 4 of 14 from the floor. The lead reached an impressive 43 points.
Every Gilas player contributed significantly, with Oftana, after receiving medical attention, returning to add a baseline jumper to his impressive performance. Ange Kouame logged an impressive 27:31 minutes of play, the longest on the team, gaining valuable experience for the upcoming battle against Iran.
Coach Cone mentioned, “We had a script and we followed that script very well… We also got rest for Scottie and June Mar and some of the guys who have been playing heavier minutes.”
In preparation for the crucial match against Iran, adjustments were made to the team’s offense to encourage more free-flowing play. Despite limited practice time, the Nationals capitalized on their comfortable lead to fine-tune strategies.
With restored confidence, Gilas is set to face Iran with renewed vigor. Team manager Alfrancis Chua emphasized the significance of this renewed confidence, especially after the loss to Jordan.
PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial, Gilas’ deputy team manager, echoed the sentiment, highlighting the team’s determination to bounce back after a defeat. The well-executed plays for both big men and guards were crucial in securing the impressive victory.
June Mar Fajardo and CJ Perez led the scoring with 12 points each, while Oftana added 11. Brownlee and Japeth Aguilar contributed 9 points apiece. Kevin Alas notched 8 points, while Kouame and Tolentino combined for 14 points, including two crucial treys.