MANILA (UPDATED) - Gilas Pilipinas made sure to end the first round of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers on a winning note, Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
In front of a decent-sized crowd at the Pasay City venue, the Philippine men's national basketball team came away with an impressive 79-63 victory over visiting India for a 2-2 record in Group A of the qualifiers.
They won both of their matches against India, while falling short against New Zealand. All three Group A teams will now progress to the second round, where they will play Group C teams Lebanon (4-1), Saudi Arabia (3-2), and Jordan (3-2).
It was a much-needed victory for the young Gilas squad, who were coming off a 106-60 defeat to the Tall Blacks last Thursday in Auckland. They were once again undermanned, with Dave Ildefonso unavailable due to a knee issue.
But the ten-man group showed remarkable grit and imposed their will against India, with Dwight Ramos setting the tone for the Filipinos as he scored 11 points in the first quarter. The Japan-based professional finished with 21 points, five rebounds, and four steals in 30 minutes.
Kiefer Ravena delivered 12 points and four assists, while William Navarro came alive in the fourth period and finished with 11 points. Carl Tamayo played through an ankle sprain and contributed nine points and nine rebounds.
"It feels good, getting back on track," said Ravena, who acknowledged that they were dealt a "big reality check" by New Zealand last Thursday. "We learned our mistakes and where we want to be, at what level in the future."
"We kinda showed it here, obviously, against India. Hopefully, this is a sign for a lot of improvement for the team, for the program," he added.
-- PRESSURE DEFENSE --
After a relatively slow start, the Filipinos ramped up its defensive pressure midway through the first quarter, with Rhenz Abando and Ramos scoring back-to-back layups in transition to push their lead to five points, 9-4. Ramos capped the opening period with two consecutive buckets that gave them a double-digit spread, 21-10.
The Filipinos poured it on in the second quarter, as Ramos and Tamayo came up with steals in the final minute and proceeded to score in transition to give the hosts a commanding 45-24 lead at the break.
India had 19 turnovers in the first half alone, leading to 18 points for the Filipinos. The lead eventually reached 24 points multiple times, including with 2:12 left in the third quarter off yet another Ramos bucket.
The visitors made a late run, as two straight layups from Sahaij Sekhon made it a 14-point game, 75-61, with still 2:21 to play in the game. But Navarro scored a layup off a fine pass by Kevin Quiambao, and Ramos knocked down a jumper in the next possession for a 78-61 spread, and the Filipinos cruised from there.
India finished the game with 24 turnovers that led to 20 points for the Filipinos; the home team shot 38.6% from the field. Despite fielding a smaller team, the Philippines won the rebounding battle, 50-42, and registered 22 assists on 32 made field goals.
Muin Bek Hafeez led India with 12 points, while Sekhon and Arvind Kumar Krishnan contributed 12 points.
India finished the first round with a 0-4 win-loss record, while New Zealand completed a four-game sweep of the group.
The second round will begin in November, with Group A and Group C teams combining in Group E.
PHILIPPINES 79 -- Ramos 21, Ravena 12, Navarro 11, Tamayo 9, Quiambao 6, Lopez 6, Chiu 5, Abarrientos 5, Belangel 2, Abando 2.
INDIA 63 -- Hafeez 13, Sekhon 12, Muthu Krishnan 12, Bhriguvanshi 8, Rawat 7, Goti 7, Aryan 2, Prince 2, Nayak 0, Tomar 0.
Quarters: 21-10, 45-24, 65-44, 79-63.