Gilas Pilipinas finally spat venom over the weekend. First, it defeated Jordan, 74-66. One plane ride and some 72 hours later, it repeated over Saudi Arabia, 76-63.
And to think that our boys amassed the twin wins overseas; not easy grabbing triumphs before a hostile crowd. Against Jordan, Gilas played in Amman. Against the Saudis, Gilas got the win in King Abdullah Sports City.
Rare is a feat to score back-to-back victories on foreign soil—in a span of three days.
While the victories were sure ego-expanders, they also allowed us to collar a rare sweep of the fifth window of the Fiba World Cup Asia qualifiers. With its 5-3 overall slate, Gilas looks primed for more success that should inflate its morale all the more in the frenetic run-up to the Fiba World Cup next year that we are co-hosting with Indonesia and Japan.
And with the recent success, restored somewhat is the nation’s faith in the correctness of the basketball program being devoutly espoused by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) that is being rigorously executed by the illustrious coaching staff composed of Chot Reyes, Tim Cone and Jong Uichico. All three have an astonishing collection of 42 PBA titles.
Our PBA players like CJ Perez, Scottie Thompson and RR Pogoy finally shone in Arab land as they combined well with Japan-based Dwight Ramos and Kai Sotto, the Adelaide-playing 7-foot-2 beanpole who scored a team-high 16 points in Gilas’ win over Jordan as our boys played minus star Jordan Clarkson.
Clarkson was on board when Gilas dropped an 85-81 decision to Lebanon in Beirut in the qualifiers’ fourth window, where we went 1-1 after we beat the Saudis in Manila via an 84-46 rout at the MOA Arena in Pasay City.
We will miss Clarkson in the sixth and final window next year in Manila when we battle Lebanon on Feb. 24 and Jordan on Feb. 27. But, hopefully, Ginebra import Justin Brownlee can finally play as our naturalized player together with 6-foot-9 Ange Kouame.
“That’s quite an interesting two games for us,” said SBP president Al Panlilio.
“After that, we embark into our final training stretch for the World Cup proper.”
Stay the course, Sir.