CHOOKS-TO-GO Pilipinas raced off to a fiery start before fending off a late run by NLEX-SCTEX to come away with a 95-83 win in a tune-up game at the Meralco Gym on Saturday night.
Rod Ebondo spearheaded the team's attack with 26 points, 15 in the second period where the team bound for the Fiba Asia Champions Cup led by as much as 17 points, 45-28.
Isaiah Austin and Jett Manuel added 13 points apiece for the team that will represent the country in the China showpiece starting on September 22.
Head coach Chot Reyes didn't mince words after the match, saying his wards have yet to get their acts together.
"Obviously ang sakit sa mata," Reyes said in the aftermath of their first tune-up game.
"The players still don't know the system and they still don't know each other and that's very, very difficult," he added. "Then we have guys that our trying out, we had a nice 15-16 point lead but we had to put the other guys who were trying out. That's how the game went."
Reyes was obviously disappointed with how his team blew a huge lead in the second half, where the NLEX-SCTEX side staged an uprising.
A three-pointer by Oping Sumalinog pulled the team preparing for the Merlion Cup to as close as five points, 81-86, with 3:34 remaining in the game.
But that's when the 7-foot-1 Austin showed his wares, scoring Chooks-To-Go Pilipinas' last six points to seal the victory.
"Credit the Cignal team, they're a really good team. Team na talaga sila. Syempre sa Asia, we're going to playing much tougher players," Reyes said.
Perkins paced NLEX-SCTEX with 21 markers.