JUNE Mar Fajardo flashed a smirk after faking a three-point attempt. Then Filipinos fans shouted fake countdowns with still plenty of time left on Vietnam’s shot clock, leaving the visiting team fooled and rushing for a shot, and everyone else – including their coach – chuckling.
That was the kind of night as an all-local Gilas Pilipinas could still afford to have some light moments yet still rolled to a 107-52 over Vietnam on Wednesday night in the calm before the storm in the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba)Championship.
National coach Chot Reyes fielded a new starting lineup with Andray Blatche resting due to a minor hamstring injury and the rest of the Nationals responded as they coasted to their fifth straight victory on the eve of the all-important showdown against Indonesia.
Matthew Wright shone brightest, making catch-and-shoot triples look easy as the Gilas rookie knocked down five of his seven treys on the way to a scoring a game-high 19 points in just 15 minutes as a new starter.
“We came into this ballgame with the purpose of making sure we keep our discipline and maintain good habits,” Reyes said. “Unfortunately, it wasn't the case in the first quarter, in the first half.”
“But it was pretty understandable because the guys came off a hard game last night, and they're subconsciously already thinking about or preparing for the harder game tomorrow,” he added. Overall, still a pretty good effort from our guys.”
Raymond Almazan, another national team greenhorn, played his best game of the tournament, scoring mostly off putbacks and one top-of-the key triple as he chipped in 16 points and six boards in 20 minutes.
Calvin Abueva scored the same offensive output as Almazan, the last four points on back-to-back baskets that gave Gilas its biggest lead at 59, 105-46, with a little over three minutes left in the game.
For a while, though, the Filipino dribblers hardly looked in rhythm in the early goings as they allowed the Vietnamese to stay relatively within striking distance before starting to pull away in the second half.
Gilas scored 15 unanswered points in a stretch late in the third quarter that put the squad up, 83-38, maintaining the huge cushion in the final frame.
PHILIPPINES 107 – Wright 19, Abueva 16, Almazan 16, Rosario 12, Jalalon 10, Malicsi 8, Pogoy 7, Castro William 7, Aguilar 5, Romeo 4, Fajardo 3
VIETNAM 52 – Nguyen T 11, Nguyen V 9, Trieu 9, Le N 8, Tran 7, Le P 4, Nguyen H 2, Dang 2, To 0
Quaterscores: 28-16, 53-29, 89-40, 107-52