Future is now, as young Gilas rout Thais, pass initial test in FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers


Posted at Nov 27 2020 10:49 PM | Updated as of Nov 28 2020 05:35 AM

Nine months out of competitive basketball and the Philippines men's national team didn't have a read on how it would perform returning to the hard court.

Especially with a young squad that has had little time to play together and gel.

Well, apparently, the kids are all right.

Dwight Ramos scored 20 points on a perfect shooting night, and Gilas Pilipinas turned it up in the second quarter -- both on defense and offense -- to rout Thailand 93-61 in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers on Friday, an impressive result for a collectively upstart squad with no PBA experience.

Gilas needed some time to get their bearings at Khalifa Sport City in the capital city of Manama, Bahrain, where the tournament set up its bubble, a popular competition setup during this pandemic.

But when coach Jong Uichico and co. clamped down on the Thais and the Filipinos got into a groove in the second quarter they pulled away and coasted to victory.

"Coming into this game, we weren’t sure how we would play because of a 7-, 8-month layoff. And we were just feeling ourselves at the start of the game," Uichico said.

"Fortunately, the game turned around some time at the start of the second quarter and I think we had more depth than they had, so the outcome of the game was decided."

Juan Gomez de Liaño and Justine Baltazar each had 12 points for the Philippines, which led by as many as 36 points. 

The two teams play again on Monday to close the second window of the qualifiers. 

The victory meant the Filipinos, whose average was 23 years old, shared top spot with South Korea in Group A with a 2-0 record.

Korea, which did not participated in the bubble, has a similar record, while Thailand fell to 0-2, similar to Indonesia, to round out the group.

Future is now, as young Gilas rout Thais, pass initial test in FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers 1
Blue Eagles recruit Dwight Ramos was as good as advertised for Gilas Pilipinas on Friday. Courtesy of FIBA

After a so-so start that saw Gilas lead just 21-19 at the end of the first quarter, they went to work in the second.

The Filipinos held Thailand to without a field goal for 7 minutes, running away from a 26-all score and going up 53-27 as the first half closed. 

The rest of the game, the Philippines went on cruise control before walking away with its second convincing win against Thailand in almost year.

The last time they met a PBA-laden Gilas side dismantled the Thais to win gold in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. 

In this instance, lack of international experience didn't matter, as all Filipino players scored at least a field goal, and all but one registered an assist.

Matt Nieto added 6 assists for Gilas, Juan Gomez de Liaño tallied 3 3-pointers, and brother Javi chipped in 9 points.

Ramos, the prized Blue Eagles recruit who has had to wait for his UAAP debut amid a pandemic, played 20 minutes and finished on a perfect shooting night -- 7 of 7 from the field, including 2 makes from 3-point territory, and 4-of-4 free throws.

Kobe Paras finished with a team-high 7 rebounds to go with 2 steals, but struggled to score going 1 of 9 from the floor for 3 points.

The Philippines' first victory in these Asia Cup qualifiers came in February when Gilas thumped Indonesia by 30 points, before the competition was suspended for 9 months because of COVID-19.

Gilas had little trouble against another Southeast Asian rival, but unlike their 100-70 victory over Indonesia this time the Filipinos came into the game absent professional players.

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