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Afghans break Filipinos’ hearts


It was a very close game compared to the previous but in the end, the breaks didn’t go our way.

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF PSC JOHN Rey Escalante of the Philippines (center) and Asadullah Abdul Rahimzai of Afghanistan (right) scramble for loose ball during their men’s wheelchair basketball clash in the 4th Asian Para Games.

HANGZHOU, China — The Philippines fell short of its comeback bid, absorbing a 49-53 heartbreaker at the hands of  Afghanistan in the 4th Hangzhou Asian Para Games wheelchair basketball tournament on Friday at the Hangzhou Olympic Center Gymnasium here.

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 Asian Games debut against Southeast Asian rival Thailand on Saturday in this tourney 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 a very close game compared to the previous but in the end, the breaks didn’t go our way.”

Perea could not help but note that their rivals tried to bully his boys, 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. But it happened again,” 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 Philippine squad’s stride with a basket to hold the opposition at bay.

In the end, the Filipinos’ 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.


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