Gilas Pilipinas falls short against Lithuania in international friendly game

June Mar Fajardo and Gilas lost another international friendly match (SBP Facebook photo)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

The Gilas Pilipinas men’s national basketball team couldn’t sustain its comeback effort against Lithuania in another international friendly tune-up for the upcoming FIBA World Cup, 90-80, last July 5, 2023, held in Kaunas, Lithuania.

After trailing by as much as 19 points, the Filipino hoopers were so close yet so far after a momentum-boosting fourth-quarter rally that trimmed their deficit within striking distance.

Justin Brownlee waxed hot with hopes of reversing the fortunes of the game after knocking down several big shots but the Lithuanians recovered and scored timely baskets in the last three minutes that officially put an end to Gilas’ brave effort.

For the third time since their trip to Europe, Gilas had another rough start again and absorbed a 17-point lead, 36-19, at the end of the first quarter.

Aside from their salty shooting and turnovers, Gilas had a hard time banging bodies with the Lithuanian big men and were getting bullied in the paint.

Lithuania then started to knock down their treys midway through the second period and continued their offensive clinic against Gilas.

However, after the trio of Brownlee, Jamie Malonzo, and June Mar Fajardo stepped up, Gilas suddenly put up a fight and provided a huge scare to Lithuania in the second half.

Head coach Chot Reyes also made a defensive adjustment on how to cover Lithuania’s frontcourt that helped them gain defensive stops and chip away the lead.

Fajardo finally got his offensive rhythm after scoring several isolation plays down the block but was not enough to help Gilas keep up with Lithuania’s pace.

Brownlee led all Gilas scorers with 20 points, Malonzo contributed 14 markers while Fajardo ended the game with 13 points.