TAIPEI - A new-look Gilas Pilipinas side struggled to find its footing in its first tournament appearance together, dropping a one-sided 77-90 loss to a tall, experienced Canada side in its debut in the 39th Jones Cup on Saturday.
Gilas, made up mostly of PBA rookies and amateur standouts, allowed Canada to pull away in a jagged first-half performance and never got to make up the gap before a sizable crowd at the Taipei Heping Gymnasium that included hundreds of Filipino fans.
This Gilas side is much younger compared to the Philippine national side that won this annual showpiece in 2012 under Chot Reyes, or the 2015 team brought here by former national coach Tab Baldwin that finished second to Iran.
And its inexperience showed in a first half that saw Gilas trail, 34-44, after making just 20 percent of its shots from three-point range, 37 percent overall, and commit 15 turnovers that left Reyes furious and often scratching his head on the sidelines.
"Our game could use a lot better shooting, better defense," said Reyes later. "But that's the reason we're here - to grow and improve."
Canada consequently looked good on the floor - not bad, really, for a team that practiced together just four hours before the tournament, according to coach Kyle Julius.
"Coming in, I didn't really know what to expect," said Julius of a selection made up mostly of players pickd up from the Canada league. "But I liked the ball movement, I liked the togetherness. We played hard. So it's a good win for a team that practiced for just four hours."
From among its long-range gunners, only Matthew Wright found a semblance of rhythm when he made eight points including two three-pointers to cut Canada's lead to 60-68 with 8:50 left to play.
Canada, however, stepped on the gas from there, bringing the lead back up to 15 points, 80-65, with 6:45 to go on an alley-oop, two-handed jam by high-flyer Michale Kyser.
Kiefer Ravena led Gilas with 12 points off the bench while Rayray Parks, Jr. added 11 for Gilas, which turned the ball over 22 times and made just 41 percent of its shots.
Reyes, though, was left to rue the 40 free throws Gilas gave up to the Canadians, who made 31. In contrast, the Filipinos made just 14 free throws from 21 attempts.
"You can't win a game giving up 40 free throws against a quality side like that," Reyes said.
Canada 90 - Williamson 15, Haywood 12, Kapelan 12, Smith 9, Wood 9, Friesen 8, Sutherland 5, Keith 4, Mordan 2, Bachyski 2
Gilas 77 - Ravena 12, Parks 11, Cruz 10, Wright 9, Standhardinger 9, Jalalon 5, Myers 7, Paras 4, Pogoy 4, Ferrer 3, Belo 3, Jose 0
Quarterscores: 19-20; 44-34; 66-54, 90-77