Gilas Pilipinas overcame a slow start as it pulled off a 76-73 victory over Thailand in the men’s basketball competition of the 31st Southeast Asian Games Monday night at the Than Tri Gymnasium in Hanoi.
Gilas displayed endgame poise to open their title defense and quest for the country’s 19th crown on an impressive note against the vastly-improved Thais.
June Mar Fajardo was impressive, dominating the paint with 28 points, 12 rebounds, and two blocks while Thirdy Ravena added 17 markers, six boards and three assists in 27 minutes of action.
The Chot Reyes-mentored squad will gun for its second consecutive win when it faces Cambodia today at 6 p.m. (Manila time).
It was not a smooth start as the Filipinos suffered a horrendous 13-21 opening quarter deficit before Fajardo powered an and-one play to build a 38-34 lead at the half.
Gilas took a few more minutes to heat up in the second half until Matthew Wright and Kiefer Ravena powered an 8-0 tear that gave their side a 48-36 spread in the third canto.
While the Filipinos consistently maintained the gap in the final frame, Thai sniper Nakuru Jaisanuk refused to give up and drilled an uncontested trey to slash the gap to four, 75-71, with only 24 seconds left.
Antonio Price pushed Thailand closer with a jumper, 73-75, but a split from Ravena with three ticks to go was enough to spoil the Thais’ upset bid.
The Thai-American Price topped his squad with 18 points and nine rebounds while Moses Morgan added 15 markers, five boards and four assists.
Local mainstay Nattakarn Muangboon and Frederick Lish added 12 and 10, respectively.
Over at the women’s play, the Filipinas uncorked a fiery second-half rally to kick off their title-retention bid with a 93-77 win over Indonesia.
Gilas women forged a 32-point third quarter storm before tightening their defense en route to a 16-point rout.
Veteran gunner Afril Bernardino led the way with 16 points, nine rebounds, four steals, and three blocks in 29 minutes, while sniper Janine Pontejos delivered 15 markers.
Camille Clarin had 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting, while debutant Gabi Bade had 11 markers, three assists and two steals.
Next up for coach Patrick Aquino and the lady dribblers is Thailand on Wednesday.