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‘There’s a lot of work to be done’

by Tito S. Talao

Chot Reyes

Chot Reyes

CEBU CITY – After giving up 60 points in the first half of each of the three tuneup games Gilas Pilipinas played against different selections from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) during the All-Star week, national coach Chot Reyes is aching to return to Manila and work on two glaring weaknesses before the dust even settles.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, especially on defense,” said Reyes after Gilas posted a runaway 125-112 victory over the Visayas All-Stars Sunday at the Hoops Dome in Lapu-Lapu City.

Gilas was held to a draw, 114-all, by the Mindanao selection in Cagayan de Oro City last Wednesday before pulling off a 122-111 over the Luzon stars in Lucena City but Reyes knows the winning final scores hardly paint half the picture.

“Lahat ng games we gave up 60 points in the first half; that’s a very alarming situation for us,” he said.

Not only did Gilas give away that many in the opening 20 minutes of all three outings, the Nationals also needed to claw back from double-digit deficits in two of them to keep the flag and program adrift.

It was 17 points down from where Gilas dug its way up against Luzon, and two full quarters of fierce firefight was required to cut down a 15-point Visayas lead that appeared ready to blow up until the pros went on the briefest of zones and Terrence Romeo made them pay from the outside.

Calvin Abueva had 26 points, including Gilas’ last 11 in the third quarter, and Romeo, named all-star game MVP, added 25, the two of them unleashed beasts in the second half, but what could be most remembered in the game were James Yap hitting three straight 3-point shots in the first quarter, Jeff Chan burying a couple more, LA Tenorio and Chris Ross dancing around the puny defense, and Asi Taulava holding his own, as he had vowed, against June Mar Fajardo.

So disheartened apparently was Reyes by Gilas’ first 20-minute of sleepwalking that he swore off anymore scrimmages with other teams leading up to the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) championship on may 12 to 18 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“Wala na munang tuneup, masyado nang malapit (SEABA); this is the first and last time,” he said.

Naturalized player Andray Blatche was set to arrive last night from Atlanta, but Reyes isn’t banking heavily on his return.

“Blatche na lang ang missing piece. Pero sabi ko sa kanila, ‘We can’t rely on Andray. We’re on our own dahil di naman kasi natin alam condition niya. makaka-assimilate ba siya? Among themselves, we have to do that.’”

In store for the Nationals, if plans push through, are twice-a-day practices to work on their defense and one other area of concern.

“Number two, yung offense. First half pa lang (against Visayas), 12 turnovers na kami. hindi nagkaka-amuyan kasi ngayon pa lang nagkakasama.”

And the 10 remaining days before the sub-zonal eliminator for the FIBA Asia Cup will be most crucial to offsetting those flaws.

“Galing kasi sa tryouts kaya lahat sila pasikatan,” Reyes said. “Pero ngayon, di na ganon. now you’re part of the team. we should be able to understand each other’s tendencies, and more importantly, our roles.”

So far, only deficiencies have been defined. Work goes into overdrive now for Gilas with no time to spare.