By REYNALD MAGALLON
For a team which barely had any games together, not to mention injuries and absence to key players, it was safe to say, Gilas Pilipinas passed the test against Lebanon – with flying colors.
Playing without Kai Sotto and Japeth Aguilar, the nationals went back to its old, reliable weapon – speed, quickness and shooting – and romped to a 107-96 win over the Cedars on Friday night, Feb. 25 and in front of a sizable crowd at the Philippine Arena.
“Obviously we’re very satisfied with our offense. We shot the ball well. In fact, we had 31 assists and only 13 turnovers. So, that allowed us to hit 17 three pointers. Like I said, very good performance on the offensive end,” said Reyes.
The veteran mentor has all the reasons to be happy.
It was Gilas best scoring game for the entire qualifiers with the 17 triples tying the most in a single-game in the Asian tilt with Japan, Australia and Kazakhstan. Out of those triples, nine players in Gilas roster had at least one.
For Reyes it was the response he wanted from his charges as they came together and soldiered on through the adversities prior to the start of the window.
“Being in unfamiliar situations where we hardly had enough practice, very limited preparation time. And I said, in situations like this, the best way to address it is to come together and to lean on each other,” said veteran mentor
“I’m very glad the players took that to heart. And I think you saw that today. The players were really playing for each other. They were running for each other, it didn’t matter who scored as long as they were, the ball was moving very well and like I said, very very happy with that result,” he added.
Still, the nationals are not sitting on their laurels and get too much ahead of themselves, especially with Reyes seeing a lot of room for improvement for Gilas on the defensive end.
“There’s still a lot to be desired on our defense. We gave up almost a hundred points to a team without Arakji, Haidar and even their naturalized players. So this is always the case, some things to be happy about but some things to continue working on and learning experience for us. We need to be able to play a better defense to come out and have a better performance against Jordan on Monday,” stressed Reyes.