Nationals bow to Kazakhs

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Stanley Pringle of Team Pilipinas defends Rustam Murzagaliyev of Kazakhstan during their match in the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifier last night at the Mall of Asia Arena. JOAQUIN FLORES

Team Pilipinas suffered a massive meltdown down the stretch to allow Kazakhstan eke out a 92-88 win in the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifier last night at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Seasoned international campaigner Alexandr Zhigulin was at his best while Anton Bykov provided the spunk down the stretch as the giants from Central Asia pushed the Nationals on the brink of disaster.

With the setback, the Philippines needs to prevail over mighty Iran on Monday at the save venue to keep its flickering chances for a slot in the FIBA World Cup alive.

Tall order

It’s going to be a tall order, especially with the Iranians tipped to march with fire in their eyes following a humiliating 47-76 loss to Australia in Melbourne.

The Iranians crushed the Filipinos in their previous meeting, 81-73.

Zhigulin, a 24-year old gunner from Astana, fired 30 points laced with six three-pointers and seven rebounds to keep the Kazakhs at bay before Bykov delivered an undergoal stab off a beautiful pass from Rustam Yergali to seal the victory, 88-92, in the final 12 seconds.

Pringle leads

LA Tenorio tried to fight back but he missed his three-point attempt before turning the game into a fouling spree in the dying seconds.

Bykov finished the night with 20 points, nine rebounds and two steals while Rustam Murzagaliyev and Rustam Yergali chipped in 11 and 10 markers, respectively, for the Kazakhs, who will fly to Tokyo to face the dangerous Japanese side.

Naturalized player Stanley Pringle led the scoring parade for the Filipinos with 29 points while June Mar Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter added 14 and 13 markers, respectively.

Kazakhstan improved to 4-5 win-loss record while the Philippines slid to 5-4 for a joint fourth-place with Japan.

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