Gilas Pilipinas opens China campaign with 11-point win over Iran

Gilas Pilipinas made a strong first impression at the Heyuan WUS International Basketball Tournament on Thursday night, defeating Iran 76-65 despite playing without a naturalized player and its best big man, Kai Sotto.

Dwight Ramos and Jamie Malonzo set the tone early for Gilas, while newcomers AJ Edu, Calvin Oftana, and Rhenz Abando made a good impression in one of the national team’s most outstanding outings in preparation for the FIBA World Cup.

Veteran June Mar Fajardo, RR Pogoy, and CJ Perez pulled the squad together in a game that Gilas could have won more easily if not for an avalanche of turnovers.

Nonetheless, the victory was a breath of fresh air for a team that had been rocked by scandal at home and had gone to Guangdong, China without any of its three naturalized players, Jordan Clarkson, Justin Brownlee, and Ange Kouame.

Sotto, who did not join the China trip due to acrimonious negotiations between his camp and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, has yet to join the team.

The absence of Sotto was mitigated by fellow youngster Edu, who had nine points, nine rebounds, and a block in a superb off-the-bench performance that he capped with a two-handed dunk in the closing seconds.

Edu joined Gilas’ European training camp but did not see action.

Abando, who came off the bench to deliver 8 points, 2 rebounds, and an assist, while Oftana, who finished with 10 points, were both equally impressive.

Malonzo led Gilas with 11 points and 6 rebounds, while Ramos added 10 points, 8 of which came in the first six minutes.

The Philippines will look to make it back-to-back wins when it takes on Senegal on Friday.

The scores:

Philippines 76 – Malonzo 11, Ramos 10, Oftana 10, Edu 9, Pogoy 8, Abando 8, Perez 7, Fajardo 4, Aguilar 4, Newsome 2, Parks 2, K. Ravena 1, T. Ravena 0.

Iran 65 – Yazarlou 8, Azari 7, Taheri 7, Sharifi 7, Yazarlou 6, Rahimian 6, Dalirzahan 6, Mokarian 5, Alizadeh 4, Kashani 4, Khosravi 3, Far 2, Jafari 0, Arabzadeh 0.

Quarterscores: 21-23, 40-34, 59-46, 76-65.

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