If there’s one way the backcourt duo of Alex Cabagnot and Scottie Thompson would describe their Gilas Pilipinas debut in the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers on Thursday, they’d probably say it was harsh.
They did not receive the kind of welcome to the international arena that they envisioned, as the Filipino dribblers faltered to Nik Khabahrahmi and Asian powerhouse Iran, 73-81, at a hostile Azadi Sports Complex in Tehran.
The Philippines absorbed its second straight loss and are now 4-3 in the Qualifiers, while Iran – despite not getting much from star big man Hamed Haddadi, as he is currently nursing a groin injury – has improved to 6-1.
But in terms of their performances, Cabagnot and Thompson showed that they are truly solid additions to Gilas.
Cabagnot, 35, brought his court generalship and gunslinging wits to the national team, weapons that have been his bread and butter with the San Miguel Beermen, and was among the men who kept Gilas at-par with the Iranians.
The 6-foot point guard from Quezon City collected nine points, five assists, two rebounds, a steal, and a block in the 30 minutes he graced the court – he was, in fact, even fielded in by head coach Yeng Guiao as a starter.
On the other hand, Thompson showed that he can also bring to Gilas what he has been doing with the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
A Sinag Pilipinas member back in 2015, Thompson delivered an all-around performance to the tune of five points, three rebounds, three steals, a steal and a block each in just 10 minutes and 41 seconds of playing time. Moreover, he was a plus-3 to end the game.
The proud son of Digos, Davao del Sur even had his signature Scottie rebound in the third quarter, where he rose high over a much taller Iranian opponent.
Thursday night’s result is obviously a tough pill to swallow, but now that they have tasted what it’s like being and playing on the international stage, the future has only become brighter for this new era of flagbearers.
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