Gilas Fends Off Pesky Chinese-Taipei

Kiefer Ravena

Gilas Pilipinas, in the confines and comforts of home, took a while to get going, and they needed a certain four-time PBA MVP to finally find their bearings.

With the nationals struggling early, June Mar Fajardo came off the bench and gave the team a much-needed boost, scoring often against an overmatched Chinese-Taipei frontline. The gentle giant from Cebu led the team back from an early 14-point deficit, scoring 9 points and sending counterpart Quincy Davis to the bench due to foul trouble.

Jayson Castro

Fajardo continued to be a tower of power in the third canto, throwing his weight around the paint for 8 more points. The nationals also got a boost from Jayson Castro, who came alive after the halftime break, repeatedly puncturing the Chinese Taipei defense with his trademark daredevil drives. Asia’s best point guard uncorked 8 points as well, on top of setting up teammates for open looks.

The game, though, remained nip-and-tuck all throughout the third period, with Chinese-Taipei weathering every Gilas run with timely basket after timely basket. The nationals ended the quarter on a low note, with Calvin Abueva missing three free throws that could have given Team Pilipinas a four-point lead going to the payoff period. Instead, Gilas settled for a precarious 65-64 lead at the end of three.

Matthew Wright

Two triples by Matthew Wright in a two-minute span to open the fourth quarter gave Gilas a 73-66 cushion. Chinese-Taipei, though, came right back, scoring 6 unanswered points to threaten yet again, 73-72. The nationals countered with their own six-point swing, with The Blur scoring an and-1 and Wright nailing his third triple of the quarter. That mini 6-0 run proved to be the difference as Gilas finally fended off Chinese-Taipei, who were unable to muster another comeback.

Castro once again paced Gilas with 20 points on top of 4 rebounds and the same number of assists. Fajardo, meanwhile, finished with 17 points (his high for international play), 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks, while frontcourt partner Andray Blatche made up for a subpar scoring game by grabbing a team-high 14 boards and blocking 5 shots. Naturalized reinforcement Quincy Davis nearly recorded a double-double for Chinese-Taipei, unloading 20 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. He was backstopped by Yi-Hsiang Chou and Jhen Huang, who scored 17 and 16 points, respectively.

Gilas will next play Australia in February in window 2 of the qualifiers. Chinese-Taipei, on the other hand, will face Japan, also in February.

martin-bolimaWritten by Martin Dale D. Bolima.

Martin is a copy editor for the University Press of First Asia. He is an avid sports fan. He used to keep a sports blog at http://pinoysportsnet.blogspot.com/.





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