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Gilas Pilipinas beats South Korea on SJ Belangel game-winner, clinches FIBA Asia Cup berth

The Korean curse has been broken again.

Gilas Pilipinas, playing proud on home soil, pulled off a huge second half surge to beat archrival South Korea, 81-78, in the final window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers on Wednesday at the Angeles University Foundation (AUF) Gym in Pampanga.

The game looked like it would be headed to an overtime after Korea hit  a triple to tie the game, 78-78, with 2 seconds left to play.

But SJ Belangel came up big, hitting a three-pointer as time expired to seal the win for the young Gilas team.

Dwight Ramos led the Philippines with 16 points while Belangel finished with 13 for the Philippines.

Gilas also got impressive performances from naturalized player Ange Kouame - who finished with 12 points, including three three-pointers and a crucial follow-up basket with 10 seconds left - and Kai Sotto, who posted 11 points and seven rebounds in his Gilas men's team debut.

The monumental victory will see the Filipinos officially qualified for the FIBA Asia Cup, slated in Indonesia this coming August.

The win pushed their record up to 4-0 in Group A of the qualifiers with games against Korea (2-1) and Indonesia (1-2) still left to play.

The youthful Filipinos trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half, before coming together for a stronger effort in the latter two quarters.

They outscored Korea, 20-13, to finish the third period down by just one point, 57-56, setting up an exciting fourth quarter.

Korea fired off a 9-0 run that turned a four-point Gilas lead, 70-66, into a five-point lead for the visiting team, 75-70.

But steady free throw shooting from Carl Tamayo, Justine Baltazar and Ramos allowed the Filipinos to sneak back within striking distance.

Belangel then made a huge shot to put Gilas ahead, 76-75, with 48 seconds left and Kouame made a crucial putback off a William Navarro miss to make it 78-75 with 10 left to play.

The Ivorian-born big man also drew a foul but missed a free throw that could have sealed the win there.

Korea took advantage, quickly setting up Lee Hyunjung for a three-pointer that knotted the game at 78-all.

But Belangel had the last word, knocking down an off-balanced shot at the buzzer to give the home team the win.

Korea's naturalized player Ra Guna, the former PBA import known as Ricardo Ratliffe, led them with 24 points, including six in their big fourth quarter run, alongside 15 rebounds while playing all 40 minutes.

Lee, who hit the trey that almost sent the game into overtime, finished with 15 points.

The scores:

Gilas (81) - Ramos 16, Belangel 13, Kouame 12, Sotto 11, Tamayo 10, Abarrientos 6, Baltazar 6, Go 4, Nieto 3, Navarro 0, Tungcab 0.

South Korea (78) - Ra 24, Lee HJ 15, Jeon 9, Lee SH 9, Kang 7, Moon 6, Yang 4, Kim 2, Lee DS 2, Byeon 0.

Quarterscores: 12-21, 36-44, 56-57, 81-78.

—Bea Micaller/JMB, GMA News