By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The Gilas Pilipinas men’s national basketball team displayed stellar chemistry to annihilate Bahrain, 89-61, during their opening game in the Asian Games last September 26, 2023, held at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Gymnasium in China.
After a slow start in the first 10 minutes of action, the Filipino hoopers stepped on the gas pedal in the following quarter which saw their lead balloon to double digits.
Chris Ross made an immediate impact after his hounding pressure defense on the Bahrain guards disrupted their offensive schemes and forced several turnovers.
After the Ross effect, the duo of Justin Brownlee and Ange Kouame took over for Gilas, helping the PHL national team close the first half with a 51-33 lead.
It was then all Gilas in the second half as they just overpowered their way against Bahrain and banked on their efficient three-point shooting and post plays.
Despite a little adjustment from Bahrain that dipped Gilas’ shooting percentage at the start of the fourth, the more experienced PHL squad found ways and attacked the rim to draw fouls.
June Mar Fajardo was also solid against Bahrain as he capitalized on his advantage at the post while also feeding Gilas’ shooters when they doubled him.
CJ Perez, Fajardo’s teammate at San Miguel and the FIBA World Cup, also contributed on the offensive end after head coach Tim Cone sent him in in the last three minutes of the first quarter.
After draining a three-pointer to increase Gilas’ cushion, Perez relentlessly attacked Bahrain’s paint and collapsed their defense in the second quarter.