Fajardo, crowd spell big difference in Gilas win over Egypt
Alder Almo (The Philippine Star) - August 25, 2014 - 11:27am

MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas continued their resurgence five days ahead of the FIBA World Cup with huge 74-65 victory against FIBA Africa silver medalist Egypt Sunday (Monday Manila time) in a tuneup game at the packed Palacio Multiusos de Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Spain.

Gilas did not disappoint a strong 3,500 Filipino crowd who travelled from different parts of Spain to cheer them on with the huge victory against Egypt, which placed runner up to Angola in the FIBA Africa championships.

Gilas kept in step with the Angolans the other day before losing steam, 74-83, in a solid showing against the African champions.

“It was a GREAT crowd. Puno [ang] lower section at ang ingay pa nila,” Gilas team manager Aboy Castro told via text message sent after the game.

With a Manila-esque crowd, back-up center June Mar Fajardo spelled the big difference dishing out an inspired game that cushioned the impact of starting center Andray Blatche’s poor first half.

Read also: Pinoys fans make Gilas feel at home in Spain

Fajardo, the reigning Most Valuable Player in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), played his best game in Gilas uniform with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting and grabbed four rebounds in 14 minutes of relief job.

“Good game June Mar! Good 2nd half Andray! If we can play that way when we take Andray out, we will be a much better team,” Gilas coach Chot Reyes was quoted by Castro telling the team after the big win.

Fajardo, whom the coaching staff had zeroed in since the Antibes pocket tournament, kept Gilas afloat despite Blatche playing his worst stretch for Gilas.

“Blatche [was] totally unproductive in the first half. Locals kept us in the game,” Gilas assistant coach Josh Reyes told in a text message sent after the game.

The former Brooklyn Nets center shot 0-of-11 in the opening half but the locals led by Fajardo and Jeff Chan kept Gilas within striking distance, 29-31, at the break.

“June Mar gave us the effort and production while Andray was on the bench,” Castro added.  

Blatche came alive in the third quarter with seven points in a 17-5 run to erect a 46-36 lead. Egypt rallied to come within four, 62-58, but Chan and Ranidel de Ocampo combined in an 8-0 run the win that snapped a five-game losing spell.

Gilas will wind up their tuneup games against Dominican Republic Monday night.

Chan led Gilas with 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting while adding three boards a single assist. Blatche atoned for his early struggles finishing with 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting that went with seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Marc Pingris also was solid off the bench adding 12 points and five boards. Jayson Castro sat out his second straight game with an Achilles injury and is still listed as day-to-day.

De Ocampo and Norwood also chipped in with seven points, respectively while Lee, who is in hot water back home following his trade demands, struggled with 2-of-6 shooting to come up with only six points.

The game will be aired on TV5 at 8:00 pm Monday night after the start of the week-long 30-minute FIBA World Cup primer Laban Gilas Pilipinas – the road to Spain specials at 7:30 pm. 

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