Against a stacked Thailand team, Gilas Pilipinas found itself pushed to the limit and barely pulled through, 76-73, at the start of the 31st SEA Games men’s basketball at the Thanh Tri Gymnasium in Hanoi, Vietnam Monday.
Shaky start and missed free throws at the finish took its toll on the Nationals who barely escaped on a muffed three-point try at the buzzer by a Thai gunner.
On a mission to extend the Philippines’ basketball reign to 14 SEAG editions, coach Chot Reyes and the Nationals nailed an opening win, and go for the second against Cambodia at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
After that, Gilas faces Singapore Wednesday, Vietnam Thursday, Malaysia Saturday and Indonesia Sunday.
It’s a single-round-robin competition among seven teams. The team with the best record after one round automatically wins the championship.
Even with some PBA stars led by six-time MVP winner June Mar Fajardo, the Nationals faced a scare against the Thai team featuring several blacks who are supposedly Thai-foreign players.
Moses Morgan of DePaul, 6-1 Antonio Price (Tra) Holder Soonthornchote of Arizona State, 5-10 veteran Freddie Jones Goldstein Lish of South Alabama and 6-9 Chanatip Jakrawan, the quartet who won the gold medal in the 3×3 play, led the Thai team that gave Gilas a tough, tough challenge and just came up short in the end.
Fajardo came through with 28 points and 12 rebounds, but the Nationals still went through the hard, scary way.
They had to rally from an early 10-point deficit, 11-21, and, after taking their own 10-point spread in the fourth, had to fend off a never-say-die stand by the Thais.
Philippines 76 – Fajardo 28, Ravena T. 17, Tautua’a 9, Pogoy 6, Ravena K. 5, Wright 4, Rosario 3, Montalbo 2, Go 2.
Thailand 73 – Price 18, Morgan M. 15, Muangboon 12, Lish 10, Jaisanuk 6, Jakrawan 4, Chanthachon 4, Morgan J. 2, Towaroj 2, Chungyampin 0, Klahan 0, Klaewnarong 0.
Quarterscores: 13-21, 38-34, 58-52, 76-73.