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Gilas Pilipinas routs Kazakhstan, books ticket to FIBA World Cup

Gilas players hoist up Coach Yeng Guiao after the Philippines defeated Kazakhstan. FIBA

ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- Gilas Pilipinas booked a return trip to the FIBA World Cup with a 93-75 win over Kazakhstan and with South Korea's 84-72 win over Lebanon.

The draw for the World Cup will take place on March 16 with play scheduled to begin in China on August 31.

Andray Blatche delivered his best performance in a Gilas uniform on Sunday at the Saryarka Velodrome as he led the charge with 41 points, 14 rebounds, four steals, three assists, and two blocks.

Jayson Castro knocked down all four of his 3-point attempts to finish with 15 points, while June Mar Fajardo contributed 9 points and 7 boards in 12 minutes of play.

"It was a really emotional game for us," Blatche said. "It was either win or go home. I feel like we competed from the jump till the end."

Kazakhstan opened the game with five unanswered points before Blatche began his 3-point barrage for the Philippines. Blatche scored 17 points in the first six minutes to put Gilas on top by eight. Dmitriy Gavrilov sparked the Kazakhs' counter-run that cut their deficit to just one at the end of the first quarter.

"Andray carried us on his shoulders in the first half," Gilas coach Yeng Guiao said. "He was on fire. I was kind of worried that the rest of the guys would over-rely on him. But the second half, the rest of the guys stepped up."

It was a back-and-forth affair in the second frame with Anthony Clemmons showcasing his scoring and playmaking abilities for Kazakhstan. The Philippines lost its lead but regained the momentum with a 7-0 closing rally, capped by a buzzer-beater from Paul Lee, to make it 45-40 at halftime.

Blatche continued punishing the Kazakhs' defense in the third quarter before he was sent to the bench due to foul trouble. Fajardo held down the fort on defense while Castro took over on offense, knocking down back-to-back triples and a pair of free throws for a 70-55 cushion.

"I want to tip my hat to June Mar," Blatche said. "I got into foul trouble, he came in and really was a game-changer for us and took over the team for us."

The Philippines pulled away in the fourth quarter as the rest of the team preserved the double-digit lead, even with the Kazakhs' persistent attempt to catch up.

Naturalized guard Anthony Clemmons paced Kazakhstan with 27 points on 17 shots, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals.

The Philippines clinched the last World Cup berth with the best fourth-placed finish in Asia.

Gilas (7-5) topped the other group's fourth-seeded team Lebanon (6-6), which suffered the loss to South Korea.

"We're just glad it's over," Guiao said. "We were feeling the pressure prior to this game. We really wanted to win."

THE SCORES

Philippines (93) - Blatche 41, Castro 15, Fajardo 9, Lee 8, Lassiter 8, Rosario 4, Aguilar 4, Barroca 2, Pogoy 2, Norwood 0, Erram 0, Ravena 0.

Kazakhstan (75) - Clemmons 27, Gavrilov 12, Yergali 11, Zhigulin 8, Murzagaliyev 8, Maidekin 4, Bazhin 3, Bykov 2, Aitkali 0.

EXTRA DRIBBLES

-Jordan was the last Asian team to qualify after beating New Zealand 86-80.

-Japan routed Qatar 96-48 to finish the qualifiers with eight straight wins. Gilas was the only team to beat them twice.