Big game, big heart
For me, it brought a different dimension to my game as I’m becoming a much better player.
Scottie Thompson — the reigning Most Valuable Player in the Philippine Basketball Association — is proving his overall value to Gilas Pilipinas ahead of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
The 29-year-old Thompson was able to display his big fighting heart and rebounding prowess to power Gilas to a 74-66 victory over Jordan in the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers Friday midnight (Manila time) at the Prince Hamza Hall in Amman.
In a team that is reinforced by 7-foot-3 slotman Kai Sotto, 6-foot-10 naturalized player Ange Kouame and 6-foot-9 forward Japeth Aguilar, the 6-foot-1 swingman terrorized the paint as he pulled down 13 rebounds to flirt with a triple-double performance.
He finished the night with eight points and eight assists with an impressive efficiency rating of +25, enough to impress coaches, scouts and international basketball sideliners.
“That’s where I am comfortable at,” said Thompson when asked about his monstrous rebounding performance.
“Just like what I do whenever I’m playing for Ginebra, I only do whatever I can to help the team. I hope I can bring my performance at Ginebra to Gilas.”
With Thompson crashing the boards, the rest of the Gilas squad brought its A-Game, especially in the defensive end.
The Filipinos turned on their defensive switch and held the Jordanians to just 10 points in the third period.
Shackled, battered and completely clobbered at the defensive end, the home squad could only produce six markers until the halfway mark of the final quarter, making Gilas the first visiting team to humiliate the Jordanians in their home court in the last four years.
CJ Perez was also impressive as he displayed his ability to hold the team together despite its lack of a true playmaker following the exclusion of Kiefer Ravena, who had to undergo an emergency dental procedure a few days before Gilas left for their Middle East road trip.
“I’ve been playing point guard in practices for about a month now,” said Perez, a two-time PBA scoring champion, who tallied five assists, three rebounds and a steal as facilitator.
“For me, it brought a different dimension to my game as I’m becoming a much better player.”
But Gilas’ impressive performance wasn’t all about what is written on the stat sheet.
Jamie Malonzo also got his share of the limelight, especially in the third period when Gilas were putting on the clamps on the Jordanians.
The 6-foot-6 Malonzo provided the intangibles that were similar to what longtime Gilas star Gabe Norwood provided during their impressive runs in the 2013 FIBA Asia Men’s Championship and the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
Offensively, Sotto and Ray Parks also made their presence felt.
Parks, actually, kicked off the scoring parade as he dropped 13 points, including three three-pointers, in the first half while Sotto picked up his offense in the second half to finish with a team-high 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
And then there was Dwight Ramos.
Expected to produce more offensively, Ramos displayed another facet of his game when he played solid defense on Jordan’s naturalized player Dar Tucker.
The 6-foot-4 Filipino-American swingman had only five points, but he made an impact defensively with four steals and a block on top of four assists and three rebounds.
“What a luxury to have a player like Dwight,” said Gilas coach Chot Reyes after witnessing Ramos limiting Tucker to only nine points in the second half after erupting for 14 in the first two stanzas.
“We felt that he was the best matchup for Tucker because of the size and how hard Tucker goes to the basket and his weight and strength.”
The Philippines tries to wrap up its fifth window campaign with another victory over Saudi Arabia on Monday (Manila time) in Jeddah, where a huge number of Filipino migrant workers are tipped to show up.
PHILIPPINES (74) — Sotto 16, Parks 13, Perez 11, Thompson 8, Pogoy 7, Aguilar 5, Ramos 5, Erram 4, Malonzo 3, Kouame 2, Oftana 0.
JORDAN (66) — Tucker 23, Al Dwairi 18, Bzai 9, Abbass 7, Ibrahim 6, Alhendi 3, Alhamarshe 0, Alnajdawi 0, Abbas 0, Hussein 0, Kanaan 0.
QUARTERS: 21-20; 37-41; 58-51; 74-66.
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