EVEN without three key players, Smart Gilas-Pilipinas 2.0 handily beat Qatar in their tune-up game Saturday night at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig before both teams depart for the Fiba Asia Cup in Tokyo, Japan next week.
The Nationals won the match, 78-71, even in the absence of Gabe Norwood, Jeff Chan, and Gary David.
Norwood and Chan are currently in Bangkok together with the entire Rain or Shine team for a short vacation as part of management’s treat following the franchise’s breakthrough PBA championship in the last Governors Cup.
David meanwhile, was in the hospital to be with her wife who just gave birth to their youngest child.
But even then, the Nationals had no problem disposing the visiting Qataris, who are bracketed separately from the Filipinos in the Sept. 14 to 22 meet.
Coach Chot Reyes gave every Gilas member enough playing time led by Jones Cup MVP LA Tenorio.
“My hats off to the players. It seems like they really enjoy playing with each other,” said Gilas team manager Butch Antonio.
The Nationals are bracketed with China, Lebanon, Uzbekistan, and Macau in Group A, while the Qataris are with Iran, Chinese-Taipei, Japan, and India in Group B.
The top three teams to finish in the eight-day meet will earn outright slots to next year’s Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship.
Smart Gilas 2.0 is coming off a successful championship stint in the Williams Jones Cup cagefest in Taipei two weeks ago.