Cone sees added ‘little belief’ among Gilas players amid eligibility issues
Gilas Pilipinas triumphed over visiting Changwon LG Sakers on Friday night, pocketing some sort of a morale boost ahead of the 19th Asian Games.
The Philippines held off the Korean Basketball League semifinalists in Justin Brownlee’s first-ever competitive game since a procedure to clear his left ankle of bone spurs, and at a time when the basketball leaders hold their breath over the eligibility of four of its original picks for the final roster.
“The key is—and this was what’s important about this game—the players got a little belief with each other,” interim national coach Tim Cone said on the heels of an 86-81 triumph at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City. “They started to believe a little bit in each other that maybe we could do something.”
Gilas led by as much as 13 points in the free-to-see tune-up contest, and then kept it together in the final frame when the LG Sakers made one last try for a comeback.
Brownlee had 19 points while June Mar Fajardo added 16 more for the Nationals who also drew big contributions from its four contingency measures—especially Arvin Tolentino and CJ Perez, who combined for 17 points off the bench.
“Those four guys had three days of practice and they still looked like a team out there. And I appreciate that,” said Cone of the bunch—which includes Chris Ross and Kevin Alas—who stepped in as possible replacements for Calvin Abueva, Mo Tautuaa, Jason Perkins, and Terrence Romeo.
Cone said the fate of the four original standouts to play in the Hangzhou showcase remains up in the air, a resolution only expected by Sept. 24—when the contingent actually leaves for the China meet.
“Is there no hope for them? They’re breathing, that’s about all we can say. They’re still alive. We’re not jumping around and being happy but they’re still breathing,” he said.
“I was told [sporting leaders and the Asian Games organizers are] still working on it. And will have a definitive time by the 24th. But by and large, we got our 12 right now and that’s who we’re going to continue to practice with.”
Perez and Alas, despite the uncertainties on their end, are looking at the coming days through a rosy lens.
“Every time my name is called up, whenever I’m available, I always say yes right away,” Alas told the Inquirer on his way out of the venue. “Me being a late addition, I know exactly what my role is. So I’m hoping for whatever’s best for the team.”
“I know it’s a 50-50 thing, playing in this campaign,” said Perez, one of the holdovers from the World Cup squad. “But our mindset is to always help the program, help in practices.” INQ