Fajardo and Castro save Gilas from a slow start against Chinese Taipei

Gilas Pilipinas 90 – Chinese Taipei 83

Gilas Pilipinas started off slow but they found their bearings and took down Chinese Taipei in front of their home crowd. They didn’t disappoint the fans that trooped to the MOA Arena to watch them play as they put on a show in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 2-0 standing in the 2019 World Cup Qualifiers.

It was a terrible start to Team Philippines’ home game. They fell behind by double digits in the first few minutes of the game due to their sloppy play and lethargic defense. Quincy Davis made Gilas pay every time they gave him an open lane to the hoop. He scored 10 of the team’s first 17 points as Chinese Taipei jumped out to 17-3 lead.

Coach Chot Reyes deployed his bench early as the starters struggled to find a rhythm. June Mar Fajardo kick started a run midway through the first period. He scored seven points, powering through the opponents’ defense for seven points. This got Gilas to within five points after being down by double-digits early in the game.

In the second period it was Kiefer Ravena’s turn to spark Gilas. He showed no jitters despite it being his first stint in the main Gilas team. He opened the second period with three great passes for easy scores by Andray Blatche and RR Pogoy. His fast break layup off a turnover gave Gilas their first lead of the game, 28-27. By then Gilas had found their rhythm in the game. Jayson Castro hit a four point play while RR Pogoy got a nice block and a score to put Gilas ahead at the half.

Gilas got back in the game. But they couldn’t pull away from Chinese Taipei in the early goings of the second half. The opponents stuck a zone defense of Gilas forcing them to win with outside shooting. Castro did his best to score inside but the rest of the team’s outside shot was still missing and Chinese Taipei took advantage to repeatedly stick close to Gilas.

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With Chinese Taipei threatening to steal a game in Philippine soil, the Gilas shooters finally woke up. Matthew Wright opened the fourth quarter with a corner three as Fajardo was double-teamed. Wright hit another trey near the top of the key to give Gilas a 73-66 lead. Chinese Taipei refused to let the game go as they got to within one point midway through the final period.

That’s when Castro decided to finish the game. Off a turnover, Castro had a 3 on 2 fast break opportunity. Instead of passing to the wings, he attacked the basket, scored on a floater and got the blocking foul. He completed the and-one play to restore order to the game. He followed that up with a drive and dish to Wright for another three-pointer.

Blatche’s defense held down the fort on the other end as Gilas got the stops they needed to build a double-digit lead late in the final period. The 10-point lead they built was insurmountable as Gilas cruised to the win.

Castro led Gilas with 20 points, four rebounds and four assists. Fajardo came off the bench to score 15 points and grab eight rebounds. Ravena had a solid game with nine points and five assists. Wright and Pogoy combined for 22 points and four treys. Blatche was limited to just six points but he had 14 rebounds and five blocks. Gilas moves to 2-0 in the FIBA Asia World Cup Qualifiers.

Photo from FIBA.com

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