MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A different Gilas Pilipinas showed up on Thursday morning, September 24 than had been on display the day before. And they sent quite a strong message to the rest of the competition.
The 2013 FIBA Asia silver medalists vented out their frustrations from an embarrassing opening day defeat to Palestine as the 69th ranked Hong Kong was the unfortunate victim of a 101-50 decimation in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship at the Changsha Social Work College Gymnasium in Changsha, China.
Jayson Castro, or Jayson William in international play, showed why he is considered Asia's top point guard, exploding for 21 points, 5 rebounds, two assists. He also was 5-of-6 from three-point land. The speedy Castro was firing on all cylinders as he provided not only offensive ammunition but also stability and leadership in orchestrating Gilas' sets.
Andray Blatche followed up his 21-point outing vs Palestine with a 17-point, 8-rebound performance, while Dondon Hontiveros, after going one-of-6 from downtown in the previous game, found his shooting touch and went 4-of-6 from long range against Hong Kong for 14 points to go with 8 rebounds.
Terrence Romeo added 11 points on 3-of-11 triples to go with 5 rebounds, two assists and a steal. Ranidel De Ocampo chipped 10 points and 7 rebounds.
The Philippine national men's basketball team, ranked 31 in the world by FIBA, bared its teeth and bit down hard on Hong Kong from the get-go as they raced to a 20-2 lead out of the gates thanks to Castro's taking over early on.
And although Hong Kong, which easily dispatched Kuwait on opening day, found their stride late in the first period, and were backed by the small crowd at the venue, the Philippines refused to be slayed once again and outscored their foes 23-7 in the second period to take a 51-22 halftime lead they would never relent.
The statement game continued in the third even as cheers echoed through the arena for every made Hong Kong shot as Gilas entered the fourth period armed with an 83-38 advantage.
The Philippines' defense was sticky. They clogged the paint and made sure they had active hands and feet all throughout. Unlike the first game, Gilas found the mark from the outside with a 41.2% 3-point shooting clip as opposed to 23% versus Palestine.
After the horrible loss to Palestine, head coach Tab Baldwin dared his players to do more.
"I got nothing for rebounds. That's on you," he said after explaining some adjustments for the Hong Kong game, as shown on a TV5 report.
"If we have to discuss that issue again then I won't be interested in putting my hand in the circle again with you guys. And you guys shouldn't be interested in that too. Fair enough?"
"Let's have integrity. Let's do what Filipino basketball players have been doing for years – let's play with puso (heart)," he added.
The team, clearly disappointed during that huddle in practice, responded nicely as they out-rebounded Hong Kong, 62-38. The Palestinians had the edge a day before, 53-58.
Gilas also remembered to move the ball around again and look for the open man as they registered 16 assists, compared to just 8 against Palestine.
They were much more aggressive, too, being smarter with their shot selection. Instead of mostly chucking three-pointers barely 24 hours earlier, Gilas took it strong to the hoop and went 17-of-28 from the line. While that free throw shooting still needs work, they limited Hong Kong to just 5-of-8 from the stripe.
Turnovers were also decreased from 15 to 10.
Siu Win Chang and Duncan Reid led Hongkong with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
Gilas will round up Group B play with Kuwait on Friday, September 25. The team has no room for a loss through to the second round after dropping the Palestine game. – Rappler.com