CHANGSHA, China – The stakes may not be that high but Jayson Castro would take Gilas’ sweet victory over defending Fiba-Asian champion Iran anytime.
Two years since the basketball power from the Middle East dealt the Philippines an 85-71 beating in the finals to win the Manila edition of the biennial meet, Castro and Co. finally got their payback after bringing down the Iranians, 87-73, for the reigning title holder’s first loss in the tournament.
The talented guard presided over the vengeful win by leading the team in scoring with 26 points, torching his Iranian defenders either by hitting his shots from the outside or going strong to the hoops on dazzling one-on-one plays.
He went 11-of-18 from the field, had two rebounds, three assists, and three steals.
“I just tried to be aggressive on offense and defense,” said Castro, adjudged as part of the Fiba Asia Mythical Five in 2013.
But coach Tab Baldwin was hardly surprised with the way the former Philippine Christian University guard has been playing here, especially in the second round of the preliminary where Castro has obviously stepped up and took his game to another level.
“He’s obviously very skilled,” said the Gilas coach of his starting point guard. “He hasn’t reached his potential. He hasn’t come close to it.”
Like the rest of Gilas, Castro briefly relished the moment of getting back at their former tormentor. But once everything begins to sink in, he said the team needs to get its mind back to the business at hand.
“We’re happy but we still have one more game in the second round so we have to stay focused,” he said. “We need to beat India first so we can be No. 1 in our group.”
The Filipinos face India on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m., looking to complete a three-game sweep of all their second round assignments in their bid to finish top of Group E.