JASON Castro and Jeff Chan provided the spark as Gilas Pilipinas overcame its first real challenge in the Fiba-Asia championships, rolling past Jordan, 77-71, before a roaring crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena on Friday night.
Pint-sized Castro was a blur on offense as he poured in 14 of his 16 points in the second half to pump life into what until then had been a lethargic offense that relied mostly on Chan's outside sniping to keep Jordan within range.
“Maganda ang naging offense namin sa second half, pero mas maganda especially sa defense," said Castro, a first-timer for Gilas in a tournament of this magnitude but showing the poise of a veteran internationalist.
"Sobrang relax kami nung una, pero naging key yung communication namin sa loob,” added 'The Blur.'
Castro's heroics enabled Gilas to come back from several sizeable leads posted by Jordan in the first half which could have been bigger had Chan not found his touch from the outside.
The win enabled the hosts to stay unbeaten two games into its campaign in this biennial tournament while atoning for a lackluster showing in a 78-66 win over Saudi Arabia on Thursday.
More importantly, the victory came as a timely confidence boost ahead of what should be a highly charged showdown against Chinese Taipei on Saturday.
Chan proved reliable at the clutch as he led Gilas with 17 points, spiked by five triples while Gabe Norwood played excellent defense on Jordan’s naturalized player Jimmy Baxter, who was held to just 14 points after exploding for 30 against Chinese Taipei on Thursday.
Gilas coach Chot Reyes praised the team’s defense in the second half when the Jordanians were held without a field goal for more than seven minutes in the third period, allowing the Filipinos to uncork a game-turning 17-0 run.
Reyes, though, is careful not to get ahead of himself.
“We can’t be happy until August 11,” said Reyes after the game. “Today, we’d be fooling ourselves if we allow ourselves to be happy.”
“But our team is getting better. In fact, I told the team before the start of the game that this (tournament) isn’t a sprint. This is going to be a long drawn-out race. We felt we were better tonight than last night,” he added.
Jordan, runner-up in this tournament two years ago in Wuhan, fell to 0-2 (win-loss).
Gilas Pilipinas 77 - Chan 17, Castro 16, Douthit 11, De Ocampo 11, Norwood 8, Aguilar 6, Tenorio 3, Alapag 3, David 2, Fonacier 0, Fajardo 0.
Jordan 71 - Hadrab 17, Baxter 14, Al-Sous 13, Hussein 9, Abdeen 6, Alhamamarseh 3, Abu Ruqayah 3, Zaghab 2, Abuquora 2, Alnajjar 0, Alfaraj 0, Al Dwairi 0
Quarterscores: 16-20, 33-38, 57-47, 77-71