The Philippines fell short of their comeback bid, absorbing a 49-53 heartbreaker at the hands of Afghanistan on Friday, October 20, in the 4th Hangzhou Asian Para Games wheelchair basketball tournament at the Hangzhou Olympic Center Gymnasium.
The Pilipinas Warriors came tantalizingly close in upending the Afghans, inching to within 49-50 with 1:32 to go on Kenneth Christopher Tapia’s drive but couldn’t get over the hump in absorbing their second straight loss in Group A.
That proved to be the Filipinos’ last basket as Sayed Wasim Sadat and Fazal Aziz Malik combined for the last three points in the waning seconds as the Afghans bounced back from their 33-91 thrashing of Iran the previous day.
With big man Alfie Cabañog closely marked anew and held to eight points, it was left to Kenneth Christopher Tapia and John Rey Escalante to carry the cudgels for the Pilipinas Warriors with 22 and 14 points, respectively.
The charges of coach Vernon Perea will try to record their first win in their 4th Asian Games debut against Southeast Asian tormentor Thailand, which fell to China 65-70 in the other group match, at 11 a.m. Saturday in the outing backed by the Philippine Sports Commission.
Arsalah Afzali proved to be a huge thorn with one clutch basket after another in pacing Afghanistan with 20 points while bull-strong Asadulla Abdulla Rahimzai added 10 points.
Despite the loss, Perea still commended the squad, saying: “It was very close game compared to the previous one but may mga breaks na hindi umayon sa atin sa bandang huli. The last five minutes was very crucial. Medyo nanggigil na naman tayo.
“That is why I always tell the boys to relax because we perform and execute better that way. Bumigay ng huli.”
Perea could not help but note that their rivals tried to bully his boys “yung iba pa nga ginugulungan,” citing the case of Tapia, whose left hand was run over by one of the Afghan players in the second quarter. “I was contesting to the referee that it was not a regular foul. Naulit pa muli,” he said.
He, however, continued to encourage his players as they faced the Thais, who have relegated the Pilipinas Warriors to bridesmaids twice in a row in the ASEAN Para Games in the 2022 and this year’s editions held in Indonesia and Cambodia, respectively.
Down 18-30 at the break, the Warriors came to life as Escalante sank six points in presiding over a pivotal 12-2 run in the third quarter capped by Cabañog’s short basket to draw within 30-32 that transformed the complexion of the game.
Afzali was there to break the PH squad’s stride with a basket to hold the opposition at bay.
In the end, the PH squad’s waterloo proved to be their free throw shooting, missing 23 of their 32 tries from the stripe for a measly 28 percent clip in contrast to the 60 percent norm of their rivals, who sank six of their 10 attempts.
This was pronounced in the first half as they muffed 13 of their 17 free throws for a measly 24 percent norm.
Afghanistan also outrebounded the Philippines 51-38 and 14-7 on the offensive end that resulted in more second chance points.