Australia and the Philippines dispatched their respective quarterfinal rivals to set up what could be an emotionally-charged semifinal match on Friday (August 10) at the FIBA Under-18 Asian Championship in Nonthaburi, Thailand. Their showdown comes just over a month after their respective senior men’s basketball teams took part in a nasty brawl that became the headline of every major sports media outlets. That forgettable event on July 2 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, Philippines, resulted in the suspension of 10 players on the Gilas Pilipinas’ side and three on the Boomers.

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FIBA also slapped each federation with heavy fines amounting to a grand total of 350,000 CHF. Last year, Gilas Pilipinas lost to South Korea in the FIBA Asia Cup quarterfinals.

Also, Utah Jazz assistant coach Igor Kokoskov won the FIBA Eurobasket Championship.

Experts pegged these two U18 youth teams as the favorites to win it all, making this upcoming encounter between the Australia Emus and the Philippines’ Batang Gilas all the more intriguing.

The Road to semis

Both teams came out of the preliminary round unscathed through three group games. The Philippines beat Lebanon 75-53 and United Arab Emirates 92-49 before they shocked China 73-62 to top Group B.

The Australians were in total domination of their group as they blew out host Thailand, 119-44, Bahrain, 107-42, and perennial rival New Zealand, 111-62, to go 3-0 and book an outright ticket in the quarterfinals.

In the final eight, the Southeast Asian champ faced adversity for the first time in the tourney against Gulf champion Bahrain, which just came off a huge upset over Chinese Taipei, 76-65, in the playoff round. The Philippines seemed in cruise control after taking a 20-11 lead at the end of the first quarter, but the Bahrainis unleashed a 21-0 run in the second quarter to put them ahead, 34-26, at the half.

However, Batang Gilas eventually found a way to utilize their advantage in the paint, as twin-towers 7-foot-2 Kai Sotto, and 6-foot-11 AJ Edu, combined for 37 points, 27 rebounds, and five blocks. The 16-year-old Sotto starred on the offensive end, recording 16 of his 21 points in the second half to guide the Philippines to a 67-52 victory and the country’s first FIBA U19 World Cup berth in 40 years.

The Australians also tasted a bit of a challenge from the Japanese team, early on. Japan actually took a 13-9 lead with less than two minutes left in the first quarter, but the Aussies busted out a big run late in the period to take a 10-point lead, 23-13.

After that, it was all Australia, as Kyle Bowen racked up 22 points and 13 rebounds, to spearhead the Emus’ march into the semifinal round. Sam Froling also had a double-double (12 points and 11 boards) in the 88-52 thrashing of Japan.

Where to Watch?

The semifinals of the 2018 FIBA U18 Asian Championship will be streamed live on Facebook through the FIBA page and the YouTube account for FIBAWorld. In the other semifinal pairing, 11-time champion China will lock horns with New Zealand at 11:30 AM ET on Friday (August 10). But first, the Australia vs Philippines game takes place at 6:30 AM ET.

FIBA.com will be providing the latest updates, stats, and highlights during the classification and semifinal round of the FIBA U18 Asia.