After losing back-to-back home games against Iran and Kazakhstan, Gilas Pilipinas knew that the prospect of making it into the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup was no longer just in their hands.
To punch a ticket to China, they needed help from the other teams.
In their Group F, the prospects were bleak as they needed the rampaging Japanese team to slow down. A split from Japan in their final two games and two wins for Gilas would have forced a tie at 7-5, which could have given Gilas the third spot. However, Japan took care of business on the road against Iran, eliminating that possibility.
The next team that Filipinos looked at was Jordan. Heading into the final window of the FIBA Asian Qualifiers, both the Philippines and Jordan were 5-5 and Jordan had the tougher schedule in China and New Zealand.
China seemed like they'd be taking their last two games very seriously with the inclusion of Zhou Qi but the addition of the former NBA player was not enough to prevent Jordan.
Jordan scored an impressive 86-62 victory over China to stay alive in the hunt for a spot.
February 22 was turning out to be a bad day for the Philippines even if they decimated Qatar a day before because of Jordan's win. Both teams that could fall to the fourth spot of Group E had superior quotients, which meant that Gilas needed to be one game ahead of either Jordan or Lebanon in the standings.
It looked like the day was about to get worse for the Philippines as Lebanon led late in their game against New Zealand.
Jean Abd El Nour swooped in and grabbed the offensive rebound off a missed shot from Amir Saoud to give Lebanon a 66-65 advantage with only 23 seconds remaining. Luckily for the Philippines, Tom Abercrombie nailed a three-point shot after a timeout to give the lead back to New Zealand, 69-67. Wael Arakji missed his three-point attempt for Lebanon on the next play but Ater Majok grabbed an offensive rebound. Arakji then threw a bad pass that was picked off by Mika Vukona to preserve the victory for New Zealand.
For the final day of competitions in the FIBA Asian Qualifiers, five games tipped off simultaneously with the results of all these playing a factor into whether the Philippines would make it to the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
A win for Iran against Australia would help but only if Japan somehow tripped against Qatar. The former happened as Iran defeated the mighty Aussies 85-74 in Tehran but Japan walked over Qatar 96-48.
Tom Abercrombie, New Zealand also helped Gilas
Tom Abercrombie's game-winner for New Zealand against Lebanon kept Gilas Pilipinas' 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup hopes alive heading into the final gameday of the Asian Qualifiers.
With that out of the way, Filipinos were now focused on three games: Gilas against Kazakhstan, Jordan versus New Zealand, and Lebanon versus South Korea.
The Philippine team was doing its share as they were taking care of business against the Kazakhs led by Andray Blatche but Jordan and Lebanon were also competing for a spot in China against two teams that were already qualified.
Jordan and Lebanon were up for majority of their games against their foes. The Kiwis tried to mount a comeback late in the fourth quarter but Jordan banked on a key basket from Mousa Alawadi and free throws from veteran Zaid Abbas to win 86-80 and qualify for the biggest basketball competition in the world come August.
With that door already shut, focus was now on Lebanon against South Korea. The Philippines beating Kazakhstan would be meaningless if Lebanon also won.
Like their game against New Zealand, Lebanon was also in control for much of the game as they held the lead for almost 30 minutes. From a two-point halftime lead, Lebanon rallied to take a 52-44 advantage in the third quarter. South Korea fought back gallantly even if they were only fighting for pride as they cut down their deficit to just two points, 64-62, heading into the final period.
With the pressure mounting on Lebanon against an unrelenting foe, they simply fell apart in the fourth quarter as they only scored eight points en route to losing the game, 84-72.
South Korea has been the bane of Philippine basketball historically but they gave Gilas Pilipinas a huge assist courtesy of Ricardo Ratliffe. The former PBA import, who reportedly received messages of "good luck" from some of his former PBA teammates before their game against Lebanon, dominated in the game with 25 points and 11 rebounds as he shot 9 of 18 from the field.
Ratliffe had 10 points, three rebounds, and a block in the final quarter for Lebanon and it was his layup at the 7:45 mark that gave South Korea the lead. A dunk for the former import of the Star Hotshots with less than a minute left extended their lead to 12 points, 84-72, which slammed the door on Lebanon's hopes.