Whatever worries national coach Tim Cone had for Gilas Pilipinas in their opening game in the 19th Asian Games in China turned out to be baseless on Tuesday.
The Philippines played with sustained brilliance and found very little resistance in its 89-61 thrashing of Bahrain at Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center Gymnasium for a rousing start in the continental showcase.
Justin Brownlee had 20 points, 10 rebounds and three steals — hardly showing any ill effects of the ankle procedure that kept in the freezer for about a month, while CJ Perez and Ange Kouame tossed in 15 points each off the bench in the runaway victory over an enemy the Gilas brain trust initially thought was going to challenge them.
The Nationals enjoyed leads as big as 34 points allowing Cone to give his late additions Perez, Kevin Alas, Arvin Tolentino, Chris Ross and Marcio Lassiter ample time to get up to speed.
“That was important for us to get that extra time,” the seasoned mentor said. “The five guys are still feeling their way around, and again, those are the guys who we’re going to depend on as they decide how far we go.
”Lassiter, who added eight points in the contest, was a replacement for Roger Pogoy who withdrew due to health issues. Perez and the other three Philippine Basketball Association standouts were contingency measures for original call-ups Terrence Romeo, Mo Tautuaa, Calvin Abueva and Jason Perkins whose eligibilities were flagged by the local organizing committee.
Calvin Oftana finished with 14 points for Gilas, which was later joined on top of Group C by Jordan following a 97-63 triumph over Thailand, the Philippines’ next foe in the tournament.
Women get going
“We know [them] pretty really well,” Cone, in a previous interview, said of the Thais. “We know [Moses] Morgan, we know [Tyler] Lamb, we know [Fred] Lish. So we know those guys.”
Gilas saw Thailand from afar during the Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia.
As the men’s team takes aim at a new foe, the women’s squad is hoping it could be just as impressive in its Asian Games debut.
The Gilas squad bannered by Jack Danielle Animam, will battle a tall Kazakhstan side on Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. at Shaoxing Olympic Sports Centre Gymnasium, hardened by the many international tournaments they have been through.
“Height has always been our problem, but I think we have advantages we can use against them (the Kazakhs),” Animam told the Inquirer on the eve of the match. “I’m excited to play, especially this being our first ever Asian Games, but you know we’ve been playing in much higher level of competition. It may be only our first appearance, but this feeling [we have] is not our first,” she went on, alluding to the many Fiba (International Basketball Federation) and recent Jones Cup stints.