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O Romeo, Romeo

Terrence ready to lead Gilas anew versus Iraq.

Terrence Romeo felt a sense of vindication after delivering perhaps the game of his life in Gilas Pilipinas’ 96-87 win over China in its opening assignment in the FIBA Asia Cup Wednesday in Beirut, Lebanon.

Romeo showed why he has been one of the PBA’s deadliest scorers following a stirring shooting display in the final four minutes that enabled Gilas to avoid a bitter defeat following several 17-point leads in the first half.

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He finished with 26 points, playing as if he’s a bull who had seen red. Romeo had every reason to play with such mentality.

Prior to tipoff the GlobalPort star was still having nightmares of a bitter experience less than two years earlier when Gilas fell to China in the finals of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha.

This time, Romeo refused to endure the same result, and gave Gilas a promising start to its campaign in the Lebanese capital.

“Nung tinawag ako para mag-represent ulit ng bansa at nalaman ko na first game is China, wala akong sinayang na oras. Pinasok ko sa isip ko na never akong matatakot sa kanila, never akong magdududa sa kakayahan ko,” Romeo said, as quoted by Sports5.ph.

Romeo showed little emotions right from the onset as he took part in strong Gilas start that left China wondering what hit them. He was making most of his baskets – usually off crossover dribbles that earned him the adulation of many back home.

He made several more in the second half amid China’s gradual attempt to cut the margin. And when Gilas was poised for defeat, Romeo took matters into his own hands.

Romeo ignited a 12-0 windup with a game-tying three, then hit a stepback jumper from near the foul line to give Gilas the lead, 89-87, with 2:49 left, prompting him to scream as loud as he could – the first time he had shown his emotional side.

Then the backbreaker came with about two minutes left, hitting another three this time from about 25 feet, letting out a smile while hugging Jayson Castro after extending Gilas’ lead to 92-87.

It looked as if the pain of 2015 had already disappeared for Romeo, who can now look forward for tougher battles in Beirut.

Gilas hopes to enter the 9 p.m. Manila time contest with the same fighting attitude that allowed them to pull off a 96-87 victory over the fancied Chinese cagers in the tournament opener Wednesday in the Lebanese capital.

Beating Iraq will boost Gilas’ chances of making the quarters of the continental tournament. The top team in Group B gets a free ride to the last eight while the second and third placers will be relegated in a playoff to dispute the remaining spots.

While favored to beat Iraq, a team which the young Gilas cagers beat in the William Jones Cup in Taiwan, the Filipino cagers of coach Chot Reyes can’t afford to have a sense of overconfidence.