Fajardo steps up as Gilas Pilipinas beats Egypt to end run of five losses in buildup for Fiba World Cup
A crowd of Filipino expatriates came out to support Gilas Pilipinas in the tuneup game against Egypt. Photo courtesy of Aboy Castro

GILAS Pilipinas went on a strong third-quarter assault then held off Egypt to hack out a hard-earned 74-65 victory and snap a five-game losing skein on Sunday (Monday, Manila time) before thousands of Filipino fans in Guadalajara, Spain.

Buoyed by the loud cheers of some 2,000 Filipino fans that came all the way from Madrid, some 30-minute drive to Guadalajara, the nationals fought hard in the second half when naturalized slotman Andray Blatche finally found his touch just in time.

Blatche bucked a woeful 0-of-11 shooting in the first half by scoring seven points in the third canto alone to lead Gilas' breakaway.

The Filipinos outscored the Egyptians, 24-15 during that critical third quarter surge and managed to hold on to that advantage on the way to their first victory after going 0-5 in a two-week stretch in their buildup for the Fiba World Cup in a week's time.

“We were making the right plays in the third quarter while Andray overcame a bad start in the first half after going 0-of-11,” Gilas team manager Aboy Castro said after the game.

Castro also credited backup center June Mar Fajardo for stepping up amid Blatche's offensive struggle, contributing eight points off the bench while holding his own defensively against Egypt’s big men.

“June Mar gave us the effort and the production while Andray was on the bench. He really played the game of his life,” Castro added.

Jeff Chan led the Filipinos with 20 points, while the 6-foot-11 Blatche finished with 14. Energetic forward Marc Pingris added 12 while Paul Lee chipped in six points.

Before the victory over the 2013 Fiba Africa runner-up, Gilas went without a win in the four-game pocket tournament in Antibes, France, bowing to the French national squad, 75-68, followed by humiliating losses at the hands of Australia, 97-75 and Ukraine, 114-64.

Gilas also bowed to Euskadi, 75-66 before dropping a 74-83 decision to Angola, the Fiba Africa champion last year.

The national squad winds up its pre-Fiba World Cup preparation with another tuneup match against the Dominican Republic on Monday (Tuesday, Manila time).

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