The NBL All-Stars averted a 0-3 start by New Zealand teams against Gilas Pilipinas, pulling off an 86-85 victory during their tune-up match on Sunday at the Pettigrew Garden Arena in Napier.
Gilas coach Chot Reyes said naturalized big man Marcus Douthit struggled against the taller All-Stars, but praised Japeth Aguilar and Petron's rookie center June Mar Fajardo for holding their own in the shaded lane.
"@DouthitMarcus still struggled, but @japethaguilar35 and d Kraken (Fajardo's monicker) played great," said Reyes on his account @coachchot.
Reyes' son, Josh, who serves as one of Gilas' assistant coaches, said they simply fell short in the end after some of the national squad's big men went into foul trouble.
"Fell short in time. Controlled most of the game until our bigs started to foul out or get in foul trouble. Great game though," said the younger Reyes on his Twitter account @josh_reyes.
The loss was just Gilas' first in three tuneup matches, after beating the Tab Baldwin-mentored Hawke's Bay Hawks twice - 82-78 on Saturday and 73-70 on Sunday.
The national squad travels to Wellington to play the Wellington Saints on Tuesday, followed by the Auckland Rangers Wednesday before winding up their trip against the Tall Blacks (New Zealand national team) on Thursday.
Reyes expects the next three games to be tougher, which he said will augur well for Gilas as they prepare for the Fiba-Asia men's championship set to start on August 1 in Manila.