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FIBA: Rising to the challenge

By Jonas Terrado

June Mar stood out once again for Gilas by delivering 22 points in their 93-71 win over the Taiwanese Friday night in Taiwan. (FIBA.com)

June Mar stood out once again for Gilas by delivering 22 points in their 93-71 win over the Taiwanese Friday night in Taiwan. (FIBA.com)

TAIPEI – Happy faces were evident among members of Gilas Pilipinas the moment they beat Taiwan Friday night by a convincing margin that hardly shown the difficultly securing a road win in this city.

June Mar Fajardo apologized to Taiwanese reporters for not giving them a good day after dominant show while Terrence Romeo and Roger Pogoy engaged in a banter while Manila-based scribes try to get their reaction to the 93-71 win at the Taipei Heping Basketball Gym here.

“Parang sa lahat ng window, ito ang pinakamagandang laro namin e,” said Pogoy, whose contribution on defense played a role in Gilas’ quick recovery from a nine-point deficit in the second quarter.

“Bakit may pinto ba?” Romeo butted in while standing a few inches away from his TNT KaTropa teammate, eliciting laughter from the two buddies.

There’s a good reason for Gilas to be in such positive spirit after securing a key win that could benefit them in the next phase of the qualifiers and perhaps momentum going into Monday’s home match against Australia for the top spot in Group B.

Not even a torrid start from Taiwan, which leaned on seven three-pointers to take the early lead, deterred Gilas which slowly came back behind its defense and timely offense contributed by Romeo, Pogoy, Gabe Norwood, Jayson Castro Andray Blatche and Fajardo to seize control until the end.

“Nagtulungan kaming lahat,” Romeo said. “Kung ano yung pagkukulang ng isa’t-isa, napupunan ng iba.

“So maganda, maganda yung kinalabasan. At saka, di kami nag-drift away sa sistema namin kahit na lumalamang yung kalaban tapos nakakadikit kami tas lumalamang kami tas dinidiinan namin,” he added.

Norwood, who had five steals to showcase his knack for defensive challenges, was glad to see Gilas buck Taiwan’s early surprise.

“They ran a couple of sets that we hadn’t seen and we didn’t prepare for. But (Gilas) coach (Chot Reyes) did a good job getting that second unit early. They were able to make adjustments and kept us in the game.”

Romeo and Fajardo did wonders off the bench to highlight Gilas’ strong showing that delighted Filipino fans, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas Chairman Emeritus Manny Pangilinan and SBP President Al Panlilio, PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial and members of the league’s Board of Governors who were part of the audience.

Fajardo scored 22 points and Romeo, who was booed in contrast to his rock star reception in the 2015 William Jones Cup in nearby New Taipei City, was one of four players in double figures with 14 despite describing himself as being far from the true form on the international level.

Reyes paid tribute to Fajardo’s acceptance of playing backup and succeeding in that role, saying: “June Mar has every right to demand to start but for him, it doesn’t matter. He comes in, he does his job whether that means starting or coming off the bench.