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Beating Thais was a relief – Alapag

KUALA LUMPUR – Gilas guard Kiefer Ravena showed up at the hotel lobby Monday, carrying a box of KFC chicken and went straight to watch the live telecast of the basketball game between Cambodia and Vietnam in the 29th Southeast Asian Games.

“Hindi, bawal,” Ravena smiled when asked if losing crossed his mind during their hard-fought 81-74 win over Thailand Sunday night at the MABA Stadium.

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Ravena scored two crucial free throws and a jumper, fueling an 8-0 run in the last two minutes that erased a 71-69 deficit. He finished with 11 points, one of four Filipinos who scored in double figures.

Troy Rosario led the team with 16 points followed by Christian Standhardinger with 15 and Bobby Ray Parks with 14.

“It was a relief to get the first game out of the way. We’ll play better,” said Jimmy Alapag, who is assisting head coach Jong Uichico. “But there wasn’t any doubt that we would win it.”

Uichico was again in his favorite spot at the mess hall, drinking black coffee.

“We were not consistent in our execution of plays,” rued the PBA champion coach. “And we shot badly from the three-point line, 6-of-30.”

Uichico said he described the team as between 70 and 80 percent going into the Games.

“We had nine days of practice and four games. We know it’s going to be tough,” he said.

Uichico paid tribute to the Thais who came well-prepared.

“They went to the zone to force us to shoot outside,” said Uichico.

Thailand also dominated the boards, 50-42, including a 19-14 edge off the offensive glass.

There is a strong possibility that the Filipinos will face Thailand again in the final.

But Uichico said it’s too early to think about it.

The team will face Myanmar on Tuesday.

“No, we won’t take it easy,” Uichico replied when asked how they would approach the game. “We would play the way we are expected to do.”

Except for Alapag, Uichico has nobody to assist him since most of the support crew, including the statistician, were in Lebanon for the FIBA Asia Cup.

Meanwhile, Carl Bryan Cruz was set to arrive last night in time for the 6 p.m. match against Myanmar also at the MABA Stadium.

The Philippines’ request to replace Cruz with Mac Belo was denied by organizers.

In women’s play, the Philippines debuted with an 88-54 win over Singapore Sunday evening.