MVP warns Gilas can't afford to relax as Seaba rivals getting 'bigger, better, tougher'
SBP chairman Manny V. Pangilinan expects Gilas to face tougher challenges from its Southeast Asian rivals in the future. Jerome Ascano

MANNY V. Pangilinan expressed his satisfaction on Gilas Pilipinas' performance in the ongoing Southeast Asia Basketball Association (Seaba) Championship.

But not lost on the top basketball patron in the wake of Gilas' 108-53 rout of Thailand on Tuesday night was the gains being made by rivals challenging the Philippines' basketball supremacy in the region.

“Ang leksyon doon, nag-i-improve ang Thailand. One quarter medyo dikit,” noted the PLDT and Smart Communications chairman, referring to the first quarter which ended, 18-14, marking the smallest lead Gilas had in the tournament after the opening period.

“Siyempre umalagwa tayo because we’re the better team,” he added. “But in succeeding years, hindi mangyayari yun. They’ll be tougher, they’ll be bigger, they’ll be better. So we have to be ready for that.”

[See Aguilar provides spark as Gilas takes win No. 4 vs Thailand]

The win was the fourth straight for the fancied Filipinos, tying them anew with idle Indonesia for the lead atop the standings.

Barring any major disaster, the two unbeaten teams are expected to clash for the championship on the final day of the week-long meet this Thursday.

The Indons just got an added boost on Tuesday when naturalized player Jamarr Johnson and Arki Wisnu were finally cleared by FIBA-Asia to play for the team after missing its first four outings.

They’re expected to make their debut against Myanmar Wednesday.

Pangilinan, the former two-term president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), noted Indonesia, like Thailand, has likewise improved significantly over the years.

“Maybe the same lesson as Thailand, certain countries in Asia are improving so we cannot just pretend that we continue to keep our lead,” said Pangilinan, who added the Filipino fans’ support every night for the national team has been very heartwarming.

But he certainly welcomes the challenge.

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“It would be a good game per se. Doon mababanat ang team,” Pangilinan said.

[See Naturalized player Johnson, Wisnu cleared to play for Indonesia vs Gilas]

And true to his generous personality, MVP disclosed a financial reward awaits the entire Gilas team once it gets the job done and officially earn berths in both the Fiba World Cup qualifiers and the Fiba Asia Cup.

“Pinag-uusapan kanina yung bonus sa team,” he said of the brief meeting he had with Gilas team manager Butch Antonio shortly after the Thailand game. “Meron yan, sigurado meron yan.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos