THE last man in has been the first to step up for Gilas Pilipinas.
Gabe Norwood has so far proven to be the 'X-factor' for Gilas Pilipinas through two games in the 2017 Fiba Asia Cup - a surprising role for a veteran player whose spot in the team wasn't certain until a bizarre turn of events in the days leading up to the naming of the Final 12.
The most senior in the team both in terms of age (32) and exposure (seventh campaign for Gilas), Norwood has been a steadying presence for this young Gilas side as well as a lynchpin on defense in big victories over defending champion China and Iraq.
The 6-foot-6 former George Mason University standout started the game against China on Wednesday and made his mark on defense with three blocks, three steals and three rebounds to go with three points while logging a team-high 32 minutes in a 96-87 victory.
The Rain or Shine star returned two nights later to help Gilas break loose in a close game against Iraq, thanks to his defensive work on naturalized player Kevin Galloway.
The versatile Galloway proved a handful for Gilas in the first half on Friday night, scoring 15 points to go with eight rebounds and five assists as the Iraqis kept the Filipinos at bay at the half, 31-32.
Norwood's defense, however, finally wore down Galloway in the second half, holding him down to eight points the rest of the way - and to just two points in a decisive 24-4 third-quarter run that broke the game wide open for Gilas, 56-35.
The long-limbed guard has been no slouch on offense either, averaging 5.5 points through two games. He is also stuffing the stat sheets by logging five rebounds, two assists, two steals and 1.5 blocks while playing 27.2 minutes a game - the most in the team.
Not bad for a late call-up, don't you think?