Gilas Pilipinas gets SEA Games title defense off to great start with close win over Thailand

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The Gilas Pilipinas men’s basketball team came away with a close 76-73 win over Thailand at the start of their title-retention bid in the 31st Southeast Asian Games on Monday at the Thanh Tri Gymnasium in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Thailand’s defense was hapless to stop Cebuano big man June Mar Fajardo who led the way for Gilas with a huge double-double of 28 points on 12-of-15 shooting and 12 rebounds to go with two blocked shots.

The Gilas needed every point from the many-time PBA MVP as they trailed by as much as 10 early in the ballgame before turning it around in the second with a 25-13 run that allowed them to take a 38-34 halftime lead.

The Gilas extended their lead to a high of 12 but the Thais stayed within striking distance and were within three, 73-76, after Kiefer Ravena split his free-throws with 13 seconds to go.

Thailand even got a clear shot at tying the game to send it to overtime but Naikorn Jaisanuk missed a corner triple right before the final buzzer sounded to hand Gilas the victory.

Thirdy Ravena had 17 points for Gilas, which next faces Cambodia on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

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