Hanoi—Gilas Pilipinas eliminated the first legitimate threat to its title-retention bid as it turned back Thailand, 76-73, at the start of the men’s basketball competitions of the 31st Southeast Asian Games at the Thanh Tri Gymnasium on Monday.
Hulking JuneMar Fajardo led the nationals with 28 points and 12 rebounds to help the Philippines fend off the Thais, whose several members won the 3×3 basketball crown last Saturday.
Gilas mentor Chot Reyes was right to expect Thailand to be a thorn on the side of the Filipinos for having three players with American heritage, namely Moses Morgan, Fred Lish, Jeremy Morgan and Antonio Price Soonthornchote, who top-scored with 18 points.
“This was really the team that I was worried about,” Reyes said. “We are playing four Americans and we knew that this is a high-quality team. I don’t want to say that I expected it but I knew that there is a possibility that that start would happen.”
“We just talked among ourselves to make sure that we don’t panic and we stick to our game plan. In the end, our experience just came through. But like I said, our postgame talk was all about the need to just get better,” said Reyes.
Thirdy Ravena finished with 17 points, six rebounds, and three assists for Gilas, which trailed by 10 early in the game, before surviving some uneasy moments in the end game.
Following misses from the free throw line, Naikorn Jaisanuk flubbed a corner triple at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime.
After trailing by 21-11, the nationals regained their composure and put up a 38-34 halftime lead. Fajardo’s jumper with 1:07 left in the game gave the Filipinos a 75-68 lead, but the Thais just wouldn’t go away.
Ravena bungled two free throws and his older brother Kiefer split his freebies with 6.7 seconds, giving the Thais the chance to tie the game with a three only to miss the opportunity.
Philippines 76—Fajardo 28, T. Ravena 17, Tautuaa 9, Pogoy 6, K. Ravena 5, Wright 4, Rosario 3, Go 2, Montalbo 2.
Thailand 73—Soonthornchote 18, M. Morgan 15, Muangboon 12, Lish 10, Jaisanuk 6, Jakwaran 4, Chanthachon 4, Towaroj 2, J. Morgan 2, Klaewnarong 0, Chungyampin 0, Klahan 0.
Quarters: 13-21; 38-34; 58-52; 76-73.