Fiery Gilas routs Cambodia by 68

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — No surprises this time as Gilas Pilipinas took out Cambodia like the old juggernaut that destroys the opposition in the Southeast Asian Games.

Given a big scare by tougher-than-ever Thailand in the men’s basketball opener, the 13-time defending champions flexed their muscles against the hapless Cambodians and romped off with a 100-32 triumph last night at the Thanh Tri Gymnasium in Vietnam.

The 68-point rout over the smaller, less-skilled opponents could well be a makeup outing for the Filipinos, who nearly fell to an ambush Monday and narrowly escaped with a 76-73 squeaker over the Thais.

It should also serve Gilas well in terms of gaining momentum and becoming more comfortable playing as a unit going into the next games against Singapore (Wednesday), host Vietnam (Thursday), Malaysia (Friday) and Indonesia (Sunday).

Matthew Wright and Kib Montalbo touched things off against Cambodia, knocking down two early triples to lead Gilas to a 32-9 tear after 10 minutes.

The carnage went on for the remainder of the one-sided game with Gilas pounding on their lightweight opponents and promising youngster Lebron Lopez showcasing his high-flying acts.

Lopez, who celebrated his 19th birthday on game day, topscored for coach Chot Reyes’ troops with 17 markers, five rebounds and two blocks as Will Navarro (16), Thirdy Ravena (14), Isaac Go (13) and Wright (10) contributed double-digit production.

It was heaven and earth compared to the Thailand assignment 24 hours before.

With American-born Frederick Lish, Moses Morgan and Antonio Price Soonthornchote as anchors, the Thais pushed the Philippines to the limit before bowing.

The Thais enjoyed a 10-point lead in the early goings and even though Gilas eventually wrested control, they managed to claw back late and could have forced overtime if not for a missed triple at the buzzer.

Gilas coach Chot Reyes said the Nationals’ lack of cohesion was evident in that contest.

“This was our first game ever as a team. We haven’t been able to scrimmage full court as a full team. And I think it showed with our turnovers, we had 19, and our lack of familiarity with each other,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Gilas Pilipinas women’s squad braces for a dogfight with Thailand, the team it dislodged from the throne in 2019 n Manila, in an early clash of heavyweights today.

The Philippine cagebelles are looking to sustain the form that enabled them to waylay Indonesia, 93-77, in the 9 a.m. (10 a.m. Manila time) encounter with the Thais, who barely escaped with a 70-67 win over Malaysia.

“Hopefully, we get that momentum going into the other games, especially against Thailand. We have to have a great game again like this (against Indonesia),” said coach Pat Aquino.


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