Gilas sizzles vs Saudi Arabia

MANILA, Philippines — With on-target Justine Baltazar leading the way, Gilas Pilipinas secured its first win in the King Abdullah Cup with a 77-62 disposal of Saudi Arabia last night in Amman, Jordan.

Baltazar torched the hoops with 16 points on a perfect 4-of-4 clip from beyond the arc as Gilas rebounded from its opening-day 60-73 loss to Egypt in the five-nation tournament.

Naturalized player Ange Kouame and Isaac Go backed him up with 10 apiece.

After firing blanks the previous night, the Gilas young guns did a better job on offense against the Saudis, making 12 of their 28 three-point shots (40 percent) for 27-of-65 overall (41 percent).

The 6-foot-8 Baltazar rifled in back-to-back treys to spark the second-quarter breakaway for Gilas, which picked up a morale-boosting victory ahead of its tough assignment against Jordan’s Team B tonight.

The Saudis, meanwhile, suffered their second consecutive setback.

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In Monday night’s loss to the Egyptians, the Filipinos coughed up a meager 4-of-27 (14 percent) marksmanship from deep in a 23-of-54 (35 percent) clip overall while going 10-of-29 (34 percent) from the stripe.

Amro Mohammad Alhalem and Omar Saeed Arabei were the biggest thorns on Gilas’ side with the former dropping 14 points with four rebounds and five assists and the latter making 11.

Arabei and Alhalem spearheaded a 14-3 blast in the second quarter that pushed the Pharaohs to their first double-digit spread, 27-16, from a 13-all count.

Go and Kouame were Gilas’ top scorers with 13 apiece. Go accounted for two of the Philippines’ four triples while Kouame also hauled down 11 boards.

Dwight Ramos, returning from the groin injury that sidelined him in the last FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, had an all-around 9-5-4 stats-line.

Thirdy Ravena, who missed the last two windows of the Asia Cup Qualifiers and the OQT due to his stint in the Japan B. League, marked his Gilas comeback with an eight-point, eight-rebound effort.

Gilas is supposed to use the five-nation King’s Cup for the final phase of its buildup for the Asia Cup proper originally set next month in Indonesia.

Although the Continental meet was reset to next year due to the COVID-19 spike, the Gilas young guns are making the most of the opportunity to gain match experience looking ahead to the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

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