By John Bryan Ulanday
Batang Gilas clobbered Bahrain, 67-52, in the quarterfinals of the FIBA U18 Asian Championship Thursday at the Stadium 29 in Nonthaburi, Thailand.
With Kai Sotto at the helm, the Nationals brushed off a late first-half uprising from the Bahrainis to pull off the win and book a semifinal duel with Australia, which dominated Japan in the other quarterfinal pairing.
More than that, the Nationals advanced to the FIBA World U18 Championship for the first time in 38 years.
The 7-foot-1 Sotto pounced on the Bahrainis with 21 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks while the 6-foot-10 AJ Edu added a huge double-double of 16 points and 17 rebounds on top of three assists, two assists and two blocks.
Sotto and Edu also led the way in Batang Gilas’ thumping of 11-time U18 Asian champion China on Tuesday, 73-63, to top the Group B and earn an outright quarterfinal seat.
Backstopping the two behemoths were guards Miguel Oczon, who had 10 points, and Dalph Panopio, who quarterbacked Batang Gilas offense with eight assists and four points.
Although Batang Gilas already reached its goal of advancing to the World joust for the first time since 1979, it will also be out to win another title for the first time since 1982.
Rashed Awadh and Baqer Ali tallied 13 points apiece for the Bahrain, which is coming off a massive 76-65 upset of Chinese Taipei in the qualification round to reach the quarterfinals.