Gilas Pilipinas records first 2023 Asian Games win vs. Bahrain

MANILA, Philippines – Barely-jelled Gilas Pilipinas started the 2023 Asian Games basketball tournament with a convincing 89-61 win over Bahrain on Tuesday, September 26, in Hangzhou, China.

Justin Brownlee Gilas Pilipinas
Justin Brownlee and the rest of Gilas Pilipinas squad opened the 2023 Asian Games basketball tournament with a lopsided-win against gritty Bahrain. Photo Credit: Business World Online

Surrounded by woes and controversies, including lack of team chemistry, Gilas Pilipinas started the game on the right foot by owning the shaded lane.

In contrast, Bahrain made a living from the outside to keep it close which, ironically, the Philippines didn’t have early in the first quarter.

Despite the slow start, Philippines’ balance scoring distribution was on point. The Bahrainis’ confidence however, was skyrocketing after a series of three pointers and managed to snatch the lead from the Filipinos.

Bahrain’s dominance was indeed temporary as Ginebra aces, Justin Brownlee and Scottie Thompson took over to finish the opening salvo, 22-18.

After realizing that Bahrain was no pushover, Gilas Pilipinas unleashed its true power in the second period as the Filipinos recorded their first double-digit lead of the game.

The key in the second period was solely defense. Coach Tim Cone brought in his toughest defender Chris Ross. The SMB veteran instantly thwarted Bahrain’s Mosti Rasheed’s three point shooting spree.

For the first time in Gilas history, two naturalized players Brownlee and Ange Kouame shared the floor at the same time mid of the second quarter to maintain the team’s advantage entering the halftime.

Kouame, ended the first half in a galant fashion after deceiving former PBA import Wayne Chism with a “dream shake” move, 51-33 in favor of Gilas Pilipinas.

Such a good powwow for Bahrain during the halftime as the squad lit it up once again from the downtown. Philippines’ advantage, however, was still at 20 despite the offensive efforts.

Having the height advantage of their rivals, the Filipinos kept on lording underneath the basket led by June Mar Fajardo and CJ Perez.

Aside from excellent inside baskets, the Philippines grabbed the majority of the boards to keep a decent distance, 72-47 at the end of the penultimate quarter.

Bahrain’s renewed defense in the final canto forced Gilas to commit a handful of turnovers and converted them into sure buckets.

In the same manner, the Philippines applied a pressure defense on Bahrain to disrupt its momentum and duck a potential upset.

With a bunch of PBA players on its lineup, Coach Cone had the luxury to mix and match his men on the hardwood. One of such was the Fajordo-Kouame tandem in the front court that gave the team multiple offensive second chances.

Philippines’ lead was at 30 in the dying minutes of the game. Bahrain, however, refused to give up and kept on pouring it in from the rainbow arc. The comeback attempt was too late as Gilas kept this one in the books, 89-61.

Gilas Pilipinas’ mettle will be tested in a couple of days as the nationals square against another PBA import, Rondae “Mamba 2.0” Hollis-Jefferson on September 28.

— Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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