On rebound, Gilas men and women show their character
Their pride pricked on a linoleum-covered court, by a heavily reinforced squad that showed little respect for tradition, the Gilas Pilipinas men buckled down to work for a “practice” session meant to prepare the team for the second phase of its redemption bid.
“This is basically our final practice before the semifinal game because you know, we can’t really go hard in practice,” national coach Chot Reyes told reporters shortly after the Philippines bamboozled Singapore, 105-45, on Saturday in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games basketball competitions.
“This was our preparatory practice as we wanted [the players] to already work on the things that we might need against whomever—[whether it is] Indonesia or Thailand,” he added.
It was an image-healing win, too, for the Filipinos and their much-criticized coach.
The Philippines lost to host Cambodia, which played six naturalized Americans, on Thursday in a game that turned interesting in the end after a late, needless timeout that seemingly rubbed salt on a fresh wound.
Saturday’s victory at Morodok Techo National Stadium in Phnom Penh calmed the social media mob a bit, a ceasefire that will last as long as the team remains in the hunt for the gold medal it owned for over three decades before relinquishing it last year to Indonesia.
The Gilas Pilipinas women’s team, meanwhile, lost their two-edition hold on the gold but showed their character by regrouping to fight for the next best thing.
“I couldn’t believe it myself,” women’s coach and national program director Pat Aquino said Saturday after his team’s 116-58 rout of Vietnam. “I told them it’s not just a good bounce-back (win) but it was the greatest bounce-back that I’ve ever had in my career.”
The women bowed to Indonesia on Friday and need a miracle to still retain their crown. But they made it very clear that even the silver medal is worth fighting for.
“[Seeing] them do it like that, it just showed their character,” Aquino added as the Philippines improved to 3-1.
But even the path to the silver isn’t a cruise: The team will face Thailand on Sunday before dealing with regional powerhouse Malaysia on Monday.
Played as a unit
For the men’s team, a semifinal victory could set up a rematch with Cambodia. But the squad focused on dealing with the task in front of them.
Gilas truly played as a unit against Singapore as six players accounted for double-digit scores. Marcio Lassiter led the attack with 16 points, while Justin Brownlee looked like he was getting better suited to the playing conditions finishing with 12 points, eight assists, and two steals.
The Philippines wound up shooting better this time out as it finished 42-for-73 from the field (56 percent), which was 20 percent better than its ghastly outing against the hosts last Thursday. Even commendable was Gilas’ rebounding, plucking down 57 boards against Singapore’s 35.
But beyond all those numbers that would appear in the stats sheet, Reyes was glad that he was able to trial schemes that he looks to use in the medal rounds which would have more definition once champion Indonesia and Thailand slug it out this Sunday.
“Well, we’re not about the points naman eh … we were specific with the things we wanted to do, that we wanted to achieve in this ball game,” he said.
“That’s the more pleasing thing for us coaches. There were certain things on offense and defense that we wanted to execute and more than scoring the points, they were able to do that. Those things are more pleasing to us,” he added.
For Aquino, the fight in the women continue to show is what is pleasing to him.
“We came here to play games. Whatever result it is, they still have a [purpose] in it. So until the game is over, we’ll keep fighting,” he said.
Khate Castillo shot the lights out for Gilas, finishing 22 points built almost exclusively from the three-point line.
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