FOR Thailand, it was good while it lasted.
The Thais cherished keeping the encounter against Gilas Pilipinas close for one full quarter before fading away when the Filipinos’ bench finally got into the act in a runaway 108-53 win on Tuesday night in the Southeast Asia Basketball Association (Seaba) Championship at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The visitors led the host at one point, 8-7, before settling for an 18-14 deficit at the end of the first period - the smallest margin by Gilas in the tournament after one quarter.
Coach Chot Reyes then decided to go to his second unit led by Calvin Abueva, Japeth Aguilar, and Terrence Romeo in a move that finally turned the game around. By halftime, Gilas was already comfortably sitting at a 51-26 lead.
“The second unit of the Philippines is pretty strong,” admitted Thailand coach Tim Lewis as the trio of Aguilar, Abueva, and Romeo finished with a combined 49 points.
“And we just took off the gasoline, and when you do that at this level, teams will punish you,” he added. “Then we got behind, and we just lose the momentum to compete.”
The loss was the second straight for the Thais after absorbing a heartbreaking 60-59 defeat to Indonesia on Monday.
For a while, it looked as if the setback hardly affected the team with the way it tried to keep in step with Gilas early on.
Not for so long, though.
“I thought we really played well in the first quarter. I thought defensively we did exactly what we asked them to do,” said the coach from Great Britain. “We were affected offensively, and then we just lost momentum and the feel.”
Lewis, who was in the country last October and watched some PBA games, is aware how passionate Filipinos are in terms of watching and playing the game.
“I know the level of basketball here, you know it’s a religion here, people lived and breath it,” said Lewis.
And in as much as the Thais gave Gilas a token of resistance at least even for one period, the 48-year-old Lewis believes the Filipinos remain ahead of its neighboring countries by leaps and bounds.
“There’s a long way for Southeast Asian countries to go,” he stressed.