Gilas nearly pays price for playing ‘bad game’ vs Thais
KUALA LUMPUR — It was a close call for Gilas Pilipinas as it barely escaped hard-fighting Thailand late Sunday night.
Even the big Filipino crowd was shellshocked as the Thais made the Filipinos work doubly hard for the victory in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games basketball opener.
The nailbiter, according to Gilas cadets coach Jong Uichico, “was a bad game for us.”
The Philippines, still brimming with talent despite being a watered down version of the Fiba Asia Gilas squad simultaneously playing in Lebanon, made just 6-of-30 three-point shot attempts, and gave away 19 offensive rebounds which the Thais gamely took advantage.
In the most trying times — the final four minutes of the match that saw a capacity crowd at MABA Stadium — Uichico was telling his team “make some adjustments, try not to give second chance points and make the basket.”
He cited first-game jitters for the weak stand against a team that the Philippines would normally bury in double-digit leads from the opening buzzer to the end.
The absence of Mac Belo and that Christian Standhardinger, who just arrived from Beirut, Lebanon after playing in the Fiba Asia Cup, wasn’t able to practice with the team also didn’t help the Cadets.
“And for one, Mac Belo wasn’t able to play,” added Uichico. “And here comes the guy (Standhardinger) who came from Lebanon, never practiced with the team.”
He lauded the Fil-German naturalized player for scoring 15 points and providing a power in the paint.
“But the guy came from Fiba Asia and he’s playing 20 minutes and we have Belo practicing with the team for last nine days and all of the sudden he can’t play,” said Uichico. “That just mixed up my rotation.”
Belo wasn’t included in the initial lineup due to an injury, but when he was given the green light to play, SEAG organizers refused to allow him, demanding proof that he indeed got injured.
Filipino basketball officials said there is little chance Belo will be allowed to play at all, although he showed up in plain clothes and sat on the Philippine bench.
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