MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas shook off a rather shaky start and coasted to an 88-64 win over India for a triumphant debut in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers at the Araneta Coliseum on Friday, February 25.
The return of Thirdy Ravena and Dwight Ramos from the Japan B. League proved to be a major boost as the two young standouts steadied the ship for the Philippines when it lacked offensive cohesion in the first half.
Ravena finished with 15 points to show the way for the hosts, churning out 13 first-half points for a 44-32 lead at the break before Gilas pulled away for good in the last two periods.
India trailed by only 7 points early in third quarter, 39-46, only to witness the Philippines end the period with a decisive 22-8 run capped by a buzzer-beating Kib Montalbo triple to build a comfortable 68-47 cushion.
Gilas’ lead swelled to as big as 26 in the fourth quarter and never got below 20 points as Chot Reyes marked his first game back as national team head coach with a win.
Setting the tone with 7 points in the maiden period, Ramos chalked up a team-high 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists, while Roger Pogoy tallied 12 points, with 6 coming in the third quarter, 4 rebounds and 2 steals.
The Philippines seized a share of the lead in Group A with New Zealand with identical 2-0 records, including games won by forfeiture against South Korea, which pulled out last minute due to COVID cases.
Robert Bolick also helped carry the scoring load for Gilas at the start as he dropped all of his 10 points in the first half, while Angelo Kouame shone on both ends with 6 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 2 steals.
While the usual suspects showed up, Montalbo delivered a pleasant surprise with 8 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals, a promising debut highlighted by his long bomb from the logo that delighted Filipino fans in attendance.
It was the first time Gilas played before a home crowd since the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, where the national team struck gold following an unbeaten run at the Mall of Asia Arena.
But Filipino fans did not have much to celebrate early as towering India remained in striking distance for most of the first half even with Ravena heating up and canning 3 three-pointers in the second quarter.
A Pranav Prince layup with 1:30 minutes left in the first half pulled India within 7 points, 32-39.
Gilas, though, entered halftime with a double-digit lead all thanks to personal 5-0 blitz from Bolick, who hit a triple and layup in the ensuing possessions.
Sahaij Pratap Singh Sekhon topscored for India with 14 points and 2 steals, while Prashant Singh Rawat put up 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Philippines 88 – Ramos 17, Ravena 15, Pogoy 12, Bolick 10, Montalbo 8, Kouame 6, Navarro 6, Erram 5, Williams 4, Gomez de Liano 3, Rosario 2, Rangel 0.
India 64 – Sekhon 14, Rawat 13, Bhriguvanshi 9, Muthu Krishnan 7, Hafeez 6, A. Singh 6, Prince 5, P. Singh 4, Kumar 0, Manjunatha 0.
Quarters: 18-13, 44-32, 68-47, 88-64.