By REYNALD MAGALLON
Gilas Pilipinas got a quick reality check after stringing back-to-back victories in its European trip, falling to a Lithuanian select team, 90-80, in its third tune-up game in Kaunas, Lithuania early Wednesday, July 5.
A slow start that saw the Nationals trailing 21-5 spelled doom for Gilas as the hot shooting of the eight-man Lithuanian team proved to be too much for the Filipinos to handle, ultimately suffering their first loss since the second leg of its Europe buildup and third defeat overall.
Gilas tried to mount a comeback behind Justin Brownlee and Jamie Malonzo but just couldn’t break into the double-digit barrier put up by the Lithuanian team which was composed of players playing for top ball clubs in Lithuania and neighboring countries.
Brownlee finished with 20 points and seven rebounds while Jamie Malonzo added 14 points, nine rebounds and an impressive six steals. June Mar Fajardo also finished with 13 while Kiefer Ravena added 10.
Ange Kouame who finally rejoined Gilas in the European trip played sparingly finishing with four points in just six minutes. Dwight Ramos also only played three minutes after rolling his ankle early in the contest.
Tomas Zdanavicius who was playing for Inter Bratislave in Slovenia led the way for Lithuania with 25 points, built on six triples as the select team quickly asserted its might in the opening frame and raced to an early 17-1 lead that practically set the tone for the rest of the match.
Gilas had flashes of brilliance especially in the second frame when it went on a 12-0 rally that allowed the Filipinos to come within 12, 42-54 after the Lithuanians erected the biggest lead of the contest at 24 (54-30).
Vytautas Sulskis from BC Jonava in the Lithuania domestic league also finished with 19 points.
In all, Lithuania fired 12 triples as compared to Gilas only seven makes. Lithuania also controlled the boards, 26-21.