Gilas kicks off OQT preparations with much-needed difficulty

Gilas kicks off OQT preparations with much-needed difficulty

/ 04:30 AM June 25, 2024

Dwight Ramos leads Gilas Pilipinas past Taiwan Mustangs in a tune-up game.

Dwight Ramos leads Gilas Pilipinas past Taiwan Mustangs in a tune-up game. –MARLO CUETO/

Gilas Pilipinas scored a decisive win over visiting Taiwan Mustangs on Monday pocketing a big win to kick off a series of friendlies that will help prime the Nationals for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Riga, Latvia.

The Nationals, despite missing several key players, took home a wire-to-wire 74-64 victory fashioned before a rowdy crowd at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City, but coach Tim Cone wasn’t particularly concerned with how the scoreboard read.

“Well you know, we weren’t concerned about winning or losing a basketball game, we wanted to play a certain style. And I think they did a really good job of throwing a lot of jump defense at us—things that we haven’t been prepared for because we’re only been practicing for three days,” he told reporters in the din of celebration at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.


READ: Gilas Pilipinas beats Taiwan Mustangs in tune-up before OQT

“But we worked hard on the defensive side. (Sam) Deguara, the big guy, was a load for everybody. Took a lot of space offensively and defensively and caused us some problems, but that’s what exactly we needed,” he added.

“We didn’t want it to be easy. If it was easy, then it’s not gonna help us. This is what’s hard and we were happy it was hard.”

Gilas, despite not having trailed in the contest, actually had to fend off the Mustang’s spirited tries at a comeback. Led by the hulking 7-foot-6 Deguara and nine-time PBA champion Alex Cabagnot, the visitors even trimmed the lead to just two, 34-32.


But Dwight Ramos and Justin Brownlee picked up where they left off, starring yet again for Gilas months removed from their last tour.

Ramos had 19 points built on a 4-of-5 shooting from deep to lead the way for the Nationals. Brownlee, fresh from a stint in Indonesia, chipped in 12 points and 15 rebounds.


“Obviously, I mean, for this day, it wasn’t pretty,” Cone pointed out. “We gotta be better. But that’s why we have these games. We’re not where we want to be yet, but we have to be better.”

Two more friendlies

Gilas is set to fly for Turkiye on Tuesday, 9 p.m. where they will play its national team for yet another tuneup match in preparation for the OQT in Latvia.

The Nationals are also scheduled to play the Polish national team before plunging into action in Riga where they will try to take down two higher-ranked nations in World No. 6 Latvia and No. 23 Georgia for a chance to advance in the knockout stage of the short meet that will complete the field of the Summer Olympic Games that will be held in Paris, France.

June Mar Fajardo had eight points after being reduced to a spectator in the last Gilas tour. Japeth Aguilar reprised his role and added six points off the bench. Mason Amos, who was tapped as a reserve back in April, chipped in three in the effort.

But there was no denying that Cone truly missed the injured Scottie Thompson, who had been central in his many campaigns with Barangay Ginebra in the PBA. “I do really, really miss Scottie. You all know how much I rely on Scottie. He’s such an infectious player. He infects the guys around him. He does all the things that don’t show up on the scorecard,” he said.

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“It’s not that we can’t find a replacement for him, it’s just that we’re missing him. Anybody we’d get is not gonna replace Scottie. That’s just a fact of life. But we don’t feel shorthanded. We talked to the 11 guys. They’re 11 strong.” INQ

TAGS: Gilas Pilipinas

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