December 01, 2023

Shaky Gilas Pilipinas escapes LG in lone Asian Games tune-up

Shaky Gilas Pilipinas escapes LG in lone Asian Games tune-up
One Sports

A Gilas Pilipinas squad in a race against time showed it is a work in progress, struggling for long stretches at a time before ultimately fending off the LG Sakers behind a strong fourth quarter in the national team’s lone tune-up game prior to the Asian Games.

After a tight first quarter that ended with Gilas up by only 3, 20-17, the Tim Cone-coached squad began building some separation in the second canto behind Cjay Perez and Arvin Tolentino. Late additions to the team, the two combined for 14 points in the first half, with Perez scoring 8 and Tolentino contributing 6—both off the bench—to help lead Gilas to a 47-39 advantage at intermission.

Gilas turned cold after the break, though, as the Sakers mounted an early 12-4 run to tie the game at 51 and set up a nip-and-talk third period. Gilas managed to stay on top, 68-67, at the end of three, then leaned on the timely baskets of Justin Brownlee in the fourth period to finally shake off the Koreans, 86-81.

But while still groping for form and searching for familiarity, Gilas did show flashes of good basketball, including some crisp ball movement, vestiges of Cone’s famed triangle offense, and a seeming commitment to feed the ball more to June Mar Fajardo at the post.

There was also Brownlee, still on the mend from bone spur removal but looking spry and ready already, Cjay Perez doing Cjay Perez things, Tolentino playing well, and Calvin Oftana finally looking healthy.  

Brownlee led the way for Gilas with 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists, while Fajardo added 16 markers in a foul-plagued stint. Oftana, meanwhile, contributed a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds as a starter, while Scottie Thompson, looking more comfortable under Cone, chipped in 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists.

Gilas will next fly to China on Sunday, September 24, and will then play its first game in the Asiad on Tuesday, September 26.