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Thanks to Blatche and Korea, Gilas is back in Fiba World Cup

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By Miles Morales

Team Pilipinas is heading back to the Fiba Basketball World Cup, thanks to naturalized player Andray Blatche’s 41-point game and a very important assist from Gilas Pilipinas nemesis Korea.

The Philippines clinched a berth in the World Cup on Sunday night after beating the Kazakhs, 93-75, in its final qualifying match in Astana.

Blatche played his best game as a member of the national squad after finishing with 41 points, 14 rebounds, 4 steals, and 2 blocks to lead Gilas to a World Cup stint for the second straight time.

Gilas replicated its trip to the 2014 Fiba World Cup with help from arch-rival Korea, whose 84-72 victory over Lebanon enabled the Philippines to finish as the best fourth-placer in the Asian qualifiers.

Jayson Castro had 15 points, while June Mar Fajardo had 9 points and 7 rebounds after playing limited minutes in the last game against Qatar due to flu.

Paul Lee and Marcio Lassiter had 8 points apiece including key baskets in the fourth that kept Kazakhstan at bay.

The Filipinos needed to win its last game to qualify for the World Cup in China later this year and a win either from New Zealand and South Korea.

For all the heartbreaks they have dealt the Philippines in the international basketball stage, who would have ever thought that Filipinos would be thanking South Korea?

The World Cup reentry was possible since the Philippines improved its card to 7-5, making the country the best fourth-placer in groups E and F, edging the Lebanese and the Jordanians.