By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The Gilas Pilipinas men’s national basketball team played a flawless second half to stun Jordan in front of their home crowd, 74-66, during the 2022 FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers on November 11.
After a loose interior defense in the first half where Jordanian superstar center Ahmad Al Dwairi dominated the paint against Kai Sotto and Japeth Aguilar, the Filipino hoopers took a different approach in the last two quarters that changed the complexion of the match.
Gilas put Al Dwairi in difficult defensive positions at the start of the second half which forced Jordan to settle for most of their offensive executions from the perimeter.
Aside from their efficient perimeter scoring led by Bobby Ray Parks Jr.’s waxing-hot shooting, Gilas also fortified their paint defense that contained Al Dwairi the rest of the way.
The move paid off for coach Chot Reyes and his wards when they held Jordan to 10 points in the third frame. Jordan would end the second half with a total of 25 points compared to Gilas’ 38 including 21 in the third quarter.
It was a favorable start for Jordan after electrifying their home fans with seven quick points and capitalizing on Gilas’ cold shooting in the first four minutes of the opening quarter.
However, the duo of RR Pogoy and Sotto answered Jordan’s offensive surge and kept the Philippines within striking distance.
The second quarter remained a nip-and-tuck affair as both teams traded baskets when they finally found their shooting rhythm.
Scottie Thompson, PBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player (MVP), took matters into his own hands after bringing his all-around game that helped Gilas capture the momentum early in the third quarter.
The superstar point guard from Barangay Ginebra didn’t disappoint in his second-straight national team call-up and dropped an insane stat-line of eight points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists.
Sotto top-scored for Gilas after finishing the game with 16 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks while Parks Jr. added 13 points built from three drained treys.
The returning CJ Perez also picked up where he left off and shouldered Gilas’ second unit scoring with 11 big points including clutch acrobatic layups that prevented Jordan from building a huge lead.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game. We have very high respect for the Jordan basketball team. We’ve played them so many times already in the past. Obviously, we’re very happy with the result,” said coach Reyes.