The Young Cagers are the lowest ranked side of the group.

Lebanon claimed their first ever win over New Zealand to clinch the top spot in Group D at FIBA Asia Cup, while the Philippines rebound for a big win against India.

Both the Philippines and India took some time to get their offence going as it took over three minutes for both teams to score their first points. The Philippines kept their offence going and blew the gap open with a 31-10 third quarter on the way to a 101-59 win.

The Philippines took the opportunity of having a big lead to get all of their players some decent playing time. Everyone played at least 12 minutes and no one played more than 22 for Gilas. Will Navarro led the Philippines in scoring with 18 points while missing only one shot from the field and one free-throw. Other major contributors included Thirdy Ravena who had 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals as well as youngster Kevin Quiambao who led the team with 9 assists and 0 turnovers.

Despite the loss, India’s young guns put up a fight, especially Pranav Prince who impressed with his athleticism for 11 points and 4 rebounds.

Lebanon top the group

Lebanon headed in to the game again New Zealand having never beaten the Tall Blacks in the previous four encounters, especially with three of the past games coming in the past 5 years. This time, Lebanon were able to take an early lead, remain calm, and hang on to an important win , 86-72.

Team captain Wael Arakji was the dynamo for the team as usual and as expected and it was a full contribution from the team once again, with Hayk Gyokchyan (19 points, 7 rebounds) and Jonathan Arledge (18 points and 9 rebounds) providing the big guns both from outside and down low.

New Zealand’s Taki Fahrensohn had the hot hand with 21 points and 4 three-pointers in what was a rare game where the Tall Blacks struggled to score.

The victory by Lebanon clinched a first place in Group D for the Cedars, while also effectively eliminating India from contention to advance.

Turning points

The first two points for both India and the Philippines set the mood and tone for the game. India’s Pranav Prince threw an impressive posterizing dunk on Geo Chiu, only for the Philippines to rush back on the other end and get a dunk from their own Francis Lopez.

India showed that they were going to come out aggressive and fast, but the Philippines sent a quick reply back that they didn’t care.

For Lebanon, there were many key baskets in such a tight game but the sequence that seemed to knock the air out of the Tall Blacks was a three-pointer by Yousef Khayat midway through the fourth quarter that gracefully rolled in. When a team gets a friendly bounce like that, it usually is a good sign for their chances of winning.

Khayat’s three-pointer was in the middle of a quick three-point barrage by Lebanon that seemingly put the game out of New Zealand’s hands.

Game heroes

Ray Parks didn’t post any outstanding play or statistic in particular, but he was solid with 12 points, 4 assists, and 3 steals. The Philippines brought him to the team for veteran leadership, solid defence, and steady play, which are the things he delivered in this game.

 Wael Arakji had arguably his best game ever in a FIBA Asia Cup, setting a career-high of 25 points and tying a career-high of 7 assists. More than the record-breaking numbers, however, was just how he acted as a leader for this young team. He wasn’t shy to be vocal and keep Lebanon focused in an intense game like this one.

Stats don’t lie

It’s tough to stop a team from winning when you allow them to shoot 59.3 percent from the floor including 46.2 percent from long range as India did with the Philippines in this game.

The key to playing against a team of New Zealand’s caliber is to make as few mistakes as possible. For Lebanon, this was a success, as least when considering turnovers committed. In this game, Lebanon turned the ball over only 3 times on their way to the win.

They said

“We wanted to come out in this ballgame and make sure to come up with a better performance than our last game – to be able to play at a certain level. I must admit that we started the game pretty rough but the players were able to recover and put a lot of pressure on India. We knew that if we prevented this from becoming a halfcourt game, it will increase our chances of winning. I think that’s what happened in this game.” – Chot Reyes, Philippines Head Coach

“Everybody’s young. Everybody’s understanding the game better day by day. We have to learn a lot from the other teams, the standard we are playing is getting better and better.” – Muin Bek Hafeez, India.

“It was a tough game… We need to be better and we expect to be better” – Pero Cameron,  New Zealand Head Coach.

“Our players, they managed to finish in a great way. Full focus. You see when you play against great teams, they put pressure on us, but we managed to commit only 3 turnovers.” – Jad El Hajj, Lebanon Head Coach.

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