MANILA, Philippines – Not even a lethargic start could snap Gilas Pilipinas’ long-standing win streak in the Southeast Asian Games.
The Philippines stormed back from a double-digit deficit and escaped Thailand, 76-73, to kick off its title-retention bid on a high note at the Thanh Tri District Sporting Hall in Hanoi, Vietnam on Monday, May 16.
Down by as many as 10 points in the opening quarter, the Filipinos slowly asserted their will before holding off the gritty Thais late behind June Mar Fajardo.
The six-time PBA MVP Fajardo frolicked inside the paint to finish with a huge double-double of 28 points and 12 rebounds on an efficient 12-of-15 clip from the field, while Thirdy Ravena added 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists.
In a rematch of the 2019 SEA Games finals, where Gilas crushed Thailand by 34 points to capture its 13th straight gold medal, the Filipinos started off slow and trailed 11-21 with a minute left to play in the opening frame.
Unfortunately for the Thais, Gilas’ offense came alive in the second period as it outscored Thailand, 25-13, for a 38-34 lead at halftime.
With Gilas already ahead by double-digits, 73-63, off a three-point play by Fajardo with 3:15 remaining in the fourth and final frame, the Thais suddenly went on a massive 10-3 run to cut the lead to just 3, 76-73, with 13 seconds left to play.
Luckily for the Philippines, Nakorn Jaisanuk, who sparked Thailand’s late-game rally, missed a potential game-tying triple as time expired.
Moala Tautuaa contributed 9 points and 5 rebounds for Gilas, while Kiefer Ravena chipped in 5 points and 9 assists.
Four players finished in double figures for the gutsy Thailand squad, with Antonio Price scoring a team-high 18 points, to go along with 9 rebounds.
The Filipinos will look for a much-better showing when they take on Cambodia on Tuesday, May 17, at 6 pm.
Philippines 76 – Fajardo 28, T. Ravena 17, Tautuaa 9, Pogoy 6, K. Ravena 5, Wright 4, Rosario 3, Montalbo 2, Go 2.
Thailand 73 – Price 18, M. Morgan 15, Muangboon 12, Lish 10, Jaisanuk 6, Jakrawan 4, Chanthachon 4, Towaroj 2, J. Morgan 2, Klaewnarong 0, Chungyampin 0, Klahan 0.
Quarters: 13-21, 38-34, 58-52, 76-73.
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