Fajardo toys with Vietnam as Gilas Pilipinas reaches SEA Games semis

MANILA, Philippines – It took a while for Gilas Pilipinas' machine to get running, but once it got to full throttle, there was no stopping it like a freight train.

The Philippines bucked a rocky start and dominated in the second half to crush Vietnam, 110-69, and nail a semifinal berth in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games at the Mall of Asia Arena on Friday, December 6. 

At the forefront of the Filipinos' attack was June Mar Fajardo, who toyed with the smaller Vietnamese en route to 25 points as they followed up their 52-point rout of Singapore with another blowout win.

Double teams – and even triple teams – hardly affected the towering Fajardo after he scattered 12 points in their third-quarter pullaway that swung a 52-40 halftime lead to a comfortable 80-57 cushion.

Five other players scored in double figures in the win, with Vic Manuel and LA Tenorio backstopping Fajardo with 14 points apiece, Troy Rosario chipping in 12 points, and Stanley Pringle adding 11 points. 

Greg Slaughter also made his presence felt for the Philippines with 11 points and 5 rebounds as he did most his damage in the final quarter. 

Earlier, though, Vietnam took it toe-to-toe with the Philippines and even held an 11-7 lead behind Vietnamese-American Chris Dierker.

But the Philippines slowly found its groove, and after the halftime break, unloaded a blistering 10-0 run anchored on Fajardo – who also had 12 rebounds in just 15 minutes – to pull away for good. 

Aside from skills, the size disparity between both teams was evident as the Philippines outrebounded Vietnam 69-30. 

Dierker finished with 28 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals for Vietnam, which despite the loss will also reach the semifinals with a 2-1 card. 

Unbeaten in two games, the Philippines seeks to sweep Group A when it tangles with also-ran Myanmar on Saturday, December 7, at the same venue. – Rappler.com

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.

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