Courtesy of 48 points from the Webster brothers, the New Zealand Tall Blacks national team eliminated the Gilas Pilipinas national team, 89-80, from the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
Tai Webster and Corey Webster, who scored 25 and 23 respectively, carried the Tall Blacks to the semifinals and effectively ended the Philippines’ Olympics basketball dream.
After a competitive first half, New Zealand padded on their 38-31 halftime lead and increased it to 13 points after a Tai Webster jumper put the score at 52-39 at the 6:16-mark of the third period, establishing the biggest lead of the game. Gilas quickly responded with an 11-4 rally to cut the deficit to six points with 3 mins left in the quarter.
The Philippines then went on another rally as a 10-2 run, eight coming from Andray Blatche, bridged the third and fourth period and resulted to the lead down to two points, 62-60, with seven minutes to go. It would be the closest Gilas could come, though, as the Tall Blacks had an answer to every Gilas run.
Tai Webster’s 25 points came with 11 rebounds and three assists while older brother Corey’s 23 points came on three three-pointers. Thomas Ambercombie also had a big contribution as he hit timely shots that extinguished several Philippine rallies as he finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.
For the Philippines, naturalized center Blatche carried the whole team as he finished with 30 points and seven rebounds while two-time best point guard in Asia Jayson Castro William chipped in 13 points and three assists.
“New Zealand came out and played a hell of a game. Their guards played well, their bigs played well. We just didn’t have any answers tonight at a time where we really needed them.” said Gilas team captain Gabe Norwood.
“We didn’t play our best basketball and that’s on us.” Gilas head coach Tab Baldwin echoed Norwood’s sentiments.
New Zealand will play France tomorrow to determine the seedings for the crossover Semifinals against Group A.
New Zealand: T. Webster 25, C. Webster 23, Fotu 17, Abercombie 13, Vukona 6, Ili 2, Bartlett 2, Loe 1, Anthony 0, Karena 0.
Philippines: Blatche 30, Castro William 13, Chan 11, Fajardo 11, Rosario 7, Romeo 5, Reyes 2, Parks 1, Norwood 0, Pingris 0, De Ocampo 0, Aguilar 0.