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Guiao admitted Blatche the difference maker for Gilas

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Miles Morales

Team Pilipinas coach Yeng Guiao admitted that naturalized big man Andray Blatche was the major factor in changing the country’s fortune to earn a return trip to the FIBA World Cup in China.

In arguably his best performance yet in Gilas Pilipinas jersey, Blatche came through and powered the Nationals with 41 points, 13 rebounds, 4 steals, and two 2 blocks as the Filipinos exacted revenge at Kazakhstan Sunday night, 93-75, to a slot for the world championship in China in August.

“We didn’t have Andray Blatche in Manila. I think that was one big factor,” Guiao said, referring to his squad’s Nov. 30 defeat to the Kazakhs, 92-88.

The 6’11 former NBA player wouldn’t have been eligible to play for the national team that time as he still has to serve the last of his three-game FIBA suspension. Although the former NBA player was already qualified to suit up against Iran the following game during the fifth window of the tournament, Guiao opted to leave him out of the line-up.

Team Pilipinas also went down against the visiting Iranians, 78-70, and on danger of missing the trip to the World Cup.

That’s when the decision was arrived to bring Blatche back. And the 32-year-old New York native didn’t disappoint.

Blatche had 17 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and two blocks in an 84-46 rout of Qatar in Doha but he definitely saved his best game for the last and most crucial game of the Qualifiers.

Blatche was on fire right from the get-go against Kazakhstan, finishing with 17 points in the first quarter including 3 three-pointers as Team Pilipinas took a 22-21 lead at the end of the period.

“He just took over the game and that’s what he did for us. If it weren’t for Andray, (we) would have been behind by 15 points and it could have been very hard for us to comeback,” Guiao said.

“Andray carried us on his shoulders in the first half. He was on fire. I was kind of worried that they guys were going to over-rely on him,” he added.