China, playing with a young team with an average age of just 20, grabbed a lead early after hounding the Philippines to bad three-point shooting and taking advantage of foul trouble on SMART-Gilas center Marcus Douthit.
But SMART-Gilas cut loose after the break, turning a 40-33 halftime deficit into a 56-54 advantage in the third quarter.
China established a double-digit advantage at 47-37, early in the third. But the Philippines responded with a 9-2 run that included a Jeff Chan three-pointer and back-to-back hits for Gabe Norwood in transition as they came to within three, 46-49.
The game was then delayed for about 20 minutes after the stadium lights went dark. The lengthy break looked to have snapped the momentum of the Filipinos, as China struck first upon the game’s resumption.
But Larry Fonacier scored on a putback and new addition Jared Dillinger hit a triple as SMART-Gilas tied the game at 51.
China took the lead back with a three-pointer but an unsportsmanlike foul by a Chinese player on Douthit swung the advantage the Philippines’ way. Douthit sank both free throws and Gary David knocked down a corner three to make it 56-54 for SMART-Gilas at the end of three quarters.
SMART-Gilas opened the fourth quarter with an 8-2 run to take a 64-56 lead with 6:32 to play, but China, behind national team mainstay Guo Ailun, responded with an 11-0 run of its own to take a three-point edge, 67-64, with less than two minutes left.
David and Douthit stopped the bleeding at that point, trading baskets with their Chinese counterparts. With SMART-Gilas down three points with 40 seconds left, Chan and David each missed attempts from beyond the arc.
SMART-Gilas sent Cao Fei to the line, but the Chinese guard missed both free throws, giving the Philippines another chance. But LA Tenorio and Chan missed final three-point attempts that could have tied the game.
The 19-year-old Guo, the only player on the squad who participated in the 2012 London Olympics, scored a game-high 18 points. FIBA Asia Under-18 MVP Wang Zhelin struggled with foul trouble, playing only 15 minutes but posting six points and 14 rebounds.
SMART-Gilas was led by Ranidel De Ocampo with 11 points while Douthit and Larry Fonacier finished with 10 points a piece.