IT MAY not be the kind of win most expected of Gilas Pilipinas, but it would have to do for national coach Chot Reyes.
“At the back of our mind we knew this was going to be a difficult first game and I’m glad it’s behind us,” said Reyes after his team overcame Saudi Arabia, 78-66, Thursday launching off its 27th FIBA Asia Championship bid at the Mall of Asia Arena.The win tied the Filipinos with Chinese Taipei on top of Group A and primed them up for their meeting with Jordan Friday at the same Pasay City venue. The Jordanians are coming off an 87-91 loss to the Taiwanese and should the hosts win that match they are not only assured passage into the second round of the eliminations but also a better carryover record than the same team that is supposed to accompany them through.“We’re glad we were able to come out of this, but the real battle is tomorrow,” said Reyes.“That’s why we were trying to manage the minutes of everyone, trying to give them no more than 20 minutes each,” he added. “We need their energy, we need them to be fresh for tomorrow.”There is another reason why Reyes can forgive his players for not coming up with the lopsided win expected of it.“It’s pretty difficult to coach coming in blind. We are familiar with the games of the other teams. The only ones we are unsure of is Kazakhstan, that’s why we wanted to play them (in a tuneup last week). And then there are the Saudis,” related Reyes.There were only some queasy moments and each are short-lived.Once Gilas got going it posted as much as a 66-50 lead before cruising to the last 6:26 of the game.Larry Fonacier and LA Tenorio each had 12 points to pace Gilas, with Marcus Douthit adding 10 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots.Aymam Almuwallad had 18 points to lead all scorers while Mohammed Almarwani shrugged off a right knee injury he suffered in the second quarter to finish with 12 points and as many boards.In all, Gilas won the battle off the boards, 49-38, shot way better from the field 42 percent-27 percent, but committed more turnovers, 14-10.“I’m disappointed because we had too many turnovers, I think we had 11 at the half,” said Reyes. “That’s why even though we got off to a good start they (Saudis) were able to stay with us.”Any fear the sizable crowd may have had started vanishing for good in the third quarter when Douthit scored six of his points and Fonacier added four in a 22-18 attack that stretched the Gilas lead to 57-46.Fonacier’s triple and Tenorio’s reverse sparked a 9-2 surge starting off the fourth and the game turned into a mere formality the rest of the way.(pr)