Gilas Pilipinas made a big turnaround from its showing against the PBA Stars Wednesday and concluded its warm-up matches for the 27th FIBA Asia Championship with a 92-89 decision over Kazakhstan at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Friday night.

Jeff Chan and Jason Castro erupted for 20 points each with Larry Fonacier and Jimmy Alapag chipping in 14 and 12, respectively, as the Nationals eked out the morale-boosting triumph six days before the start of the Asian world qualifier.

“We still have something to work on especially on defense. Today, it’s not as good as we wanted. Aayusin namin yan in the few remaining days before the start of FIBA Asia,” said Gilas coach Chot Reyes.

The Nationals showed big improvement from their Wednesday game offensively, shooting 49 percent from the field to repulse the Kazakh team which is a potential FIBA Asia quarterfinal round match-up for the host team.

Before a good Friday crowd at the Big Dome including Filipino basketball great Caloy Loyzaga and son Chito, Gilas ran its patterns well even with coach Reyes obviously still experimenting different combinations.

“May mga sinusubukan tayo at the same time, meron tayong itinago,” said Reyes.

At the finish, Reyes went to Douthit, Castro, Chan, Gabe Norwood and Marc Pingris who teamed up to give Gilas a steady windup.

“We go back to practice tomorrow and off Sunday. From hereon, it’s mostly mental and sharpening,” said Reyes.

The Nationals open their FIBA Asia campaign versus Saudi Arabia on Aug. 1, then Jordan on the next day and Chinese Taipei at the close of the first round of the preliminaries on Aug. 3.

Gilas Pilipinas and Kazakhstan may cross paths in the knockout stage.

“In my books, Kazakhstan is one of the stronger teams. We always have a tough time with them that’s why we chose not to group with them in the preliminary round,” said Reyes.

“I’m always worried about them, especially (shooting center Anton) Ponomarev,” Reyes added.

The Nationals shackled down Ponomarev in the second half and leaned on clutch baskets by Alapag, Chan and Douthit at endgame as Gilas pulled through and wound up with a 12-5 win-loss record in tune-up matches played in a two-month buildup for the Asian war.

A downside in last night’s friendly was the ankle sprains suffered by Castro and Ranidel de Ocampo.

“Yun ang hirap kapag pumukpok ka sa larong ganito, prone ka sa injury. We’re hoping it’s nothing serious,” said Reyes.

Alapag subbed for Castro in taking crucial free throws as the latter grimaced in pain after a bad fall on a mid-air collision with barrel-chested forward Mikhail Yevstigneyev.

Alapag made both charities as Gilas surged ahead to stay at 88-87 with 1:36 left to play.

The Nationals made it a four-point spread after forcing Kazakh naturalized point guard Jerry Johnson to a turnover then Douthit set up Chan for a three-pointer.

Ponomarev knocked in four of five three-pointers and went 5-of-6 in all in an impressive shooting as the Kazakhs took the half at 53-51.

The Kazakh star center, however, was limited to two points in the final half.

Trailing most of the first two quarters, the Kazakhs surged ahead, 51-46, on an 11-to-nothing attack highlighted by two treys from Ponomarev.

Chan banged in a triple with the clock winding down as the Filipinos trimmed the gap to two at the turn.

Gilas Pilipinas came out strong and led by as many as nine at 26-17 behind the starting unit of Chan, Larry Fonacier, LA Tenorio, Pingris and Douthit.

Then Castro took over, striking on the drive and on perimeter shooting as the Nationals stayed in control, 42-35, through the first five minutes of the second quarter.

The Kazakhs, however, came through with a key run coming off a timeout and seized control going into the final half.

The scores:

GILAS PILIPINAS 92 – Castro 20, Chan 20, Fonacier 14, Alapag 12, Douthit 9, Tenorio 5, Fajardo 5, Aguilar 5, David 2, Norwood 0, Pingris 0, De Ocampo 0, Belga 0.

KAZAKHSTAN 89 – Johnson 17, Ponomarev 16, Kilmov 13, Murzagaliyev 12, Yevstigneyev V. 9, Dvirnyy 7, Zhigulin 7, Bondarovich 6, Yargaliyev 2, Sultanov 0, Yevstigneyev M. 0, Bazhin 0.

Quarters: 26-22, 51-53, 76-70, 92-89

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