Gilas Pilipinas escapes Thailand in SEA Games opener

FILE – June Mar Fajardo. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines survived pesky Thailand, 76-73, on Monday night, kicking off its title-retention bid in the Southeast Asian Games on a winning note.

Gilas Pilipinas overcame a shaky start at Thanh Tri Gymnasium in Hanoi, and then padded the lead for as many as 12 points before holding off a plucky Thai side eager to avenge a loss during the gold medal match back in 2019.

June Mar Fajardo, the six-time PBA MVP finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds spiked with a pair of blocks.

Thirdy Ravena, hardened by international play, chipped in 17 points, six rebounds, and three assists in what is only his first-ever game in the biennial meet.

Thailand managed to pull to within three in the dying seconds of the contest and looked poised at forcing an extra period. Nakorn Jaisanuk, easily one of the Thai’s deadliest shooters, was unable to convert a triple over the outstretched hands of Roger Pogoy.

Ravena’s older brother Kiefer, who is shooting for an unprecedented sixth gold medal in the meet, added five points and nine assists in an outing that should prompt adjustments from national coach Chot Reyes.

Up next for the Nationals is Cambodia, a nation that finished seventh in the last edition of the Games. They tangle Tuesday at 6 p.m.

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