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Philippines, Iraq upset foes to open 2017 FIBA Asia Cup campaign
Philippines def. China 96-87
Both teams made a massive roster overhaul and showed up with a whole new different look since their last encounter two years ago.
Aside from the injection of new blood in Jio Jalalon, Carl Bryan Cruz, and Roger Pogoy, the Philippines' biggest adjustment is the exclusion of naturalized player Andray Blatche due to unclear reasons. Instead, they chose to field-in Fil-German big man Christian Standhardinger as a naturalized player to bolster the team's frontline.
While for China, they entered the tourney without their longtime go-to-guy Yi Jianlian and Zhou Qi who is currently in contract with the Houston Rockets in the NBA. However, the team's towering presence is still a thing to watch as they added 7-foot-1 Han 'The Chinese Shaq' Dejun to its fold and retained the services of 7'2" Li Muhao and 7'1" Hu Jinqiu. The Chinese team has an average height of 6-foot-7.
The Philippines relied on key holdovers Jayson Castro William, Japeth Aguilar and the come backing Gabe Norwood who took control of the driver seat from tip-off. They led by as much as 17 points and showed great chemistry on both ends of the floor. They took advantage of China's early foul trouble and turnovers.
Guo Ailun spearheaded China's late game rally but fouled out of the game with four minutes left. Terrence Romeo took charge of the situation and scored successive clutch baskets as the Philippines claim victory against the taller Chinese team.
Romeo topped the scoring column as he finished with 26 points while Castro scored 13 points and dished out 7 assists for the Filipinos. Guo Ailun top-scored for China with 18 points.
Iraq def. Qatar 77-66
Another big topic of discussion is Iraq's big win against perennial Asian contender Qatar.
The 2006 World Championships qualifier Qatar came into the game as heavy favorites. They are a known for their athleticism which makes them formidable opponents to their counterparts. Recruitment plays a vital role in their basketball program.
Iraq, on the other hand, is quite new to Asian basketball scene. A glimpse of their brilliance in the recently concluded 2017 William Jones Cup in Taiwan probably gave us an idea of their potential as a team. Their biggest asset is the presence of a heavy scorer in 6-foot-7 naturalized guard Kevin Galloway.
Galloway Tallied 16 points and 8 rebounds as he led the way with his craftsmanship for Iraq to stun Qatar. Abdulrahman Saad contributed 23 points for Qatar while veteran Ali Saeed Erfan led the charge for boards with 12 rebounds.
© 2017 Niko Quirapas