The Philippines will return to the FIBA U19 World Cup stage after four decades of absence.
Batang Gilas survived a second-quarter onslaught from Bahrain to take a 67-52 victory in the quarterfinals of the 2018 FIBA U18 Asia Championship on Thursday in Nonthaburi, Thailand.
With this fourth consecutive win, the Philippines advanced to the semifinals of the tournament and booked one of the four available slots to the U19 World Cup slated next year.
Kai Sotto came alive in the second half where he scored 17 of his 21 points, to go with ten rebounds and two assists. AJ Edu also exploded with a huge double-double of 16 points and 17 boards, alongside three assists and two blocks.
Behind Edu's efficient shooting, Batang Gilas carried a 20-11 lead at the end of the opening quarter, but the Filipinos lost control in the next period due to Bahrain's pesky defense. The Philippines only managed to score six points while Bahrain closed the half with a 21-0 onslaught to build a 34-26 cushion.
Sotto, whose touches were limited early on, aggressively led Batang Gilas' charge after the break to stop a seven-minute scoring drought. He made full use of his overwhelming size to barrel his way into the paint and spark the Philippines' recovery. He was on a roll as he finished with three dunks in the contest, including two alley-oops served by point guard Dalph Panopio.
The first Sotto throwdown allowed the Philippines to regain control, 38-36, four minutes into the third frame. The whole team conspired to preserve its cushion until the final buzzer, outscoring Bahrain 41-18 in the final two periods.
The Filipinos hauled down 12 more rebounds, 55-43, and had a 24-7 advantage in second-chance points. They also moved the ball well and tallied 19 assists, eight of which were dished by Panopio.
Baqer Ali and Rashed Awadh paced Bahrain in the losing cause with 13 points apiece.
Batang Gilas will face either Australia or Japan in the semifinals on Friday, August 10.