With the 2023 FIBA World Cup just nine months away, it seems that Gilas Pilipinas are starting to rack up momentum.
The Philippine Men’s National Basketball Team notched their third straight win in the Asian Qualifiers, routing Saudi Arabia, 76-63, in front of a raucous, Filipino-filled King Abdullah Sports City Gym in Jeddah.
This is the Philippines’ first sweep of a window since Window 6 of the 2019 qualis that saw the Philippines beat Qatar (84-46) and Kazakhstan (93-75) on the road to make it to the Worlds.
But unlike their 84-46 win over the same team last August 29 in Pasay City, Gilas had to work to get this one.
“Well, first of all, kudos to the Saudi national team. I thought they played hard and came in with a very good game plan. We expected it,” said Gilas head coach Chot Reyes as unlike in Window 4, the host’s head coach is Dutchman Johan Roijakkers — who replaced Mohamed Elkerdany last month.
“We knew the high quality of this team and we had mentally prepared ourselves to struggle, coming off a tough game against Jordan and a tough trip. Luckily, we stayed patient through our early struggles,” he continued.
Holding just a 31-25 lead at the half, Roger Pogoy caught fire, dropping 11 of his 13 points in a spurt that help give Gilas a 50-34 lead midway through the third frame.
Saudi Arabia though put up a fight, cutting the lead down to eight, 69-61, with under two minutes left in the game.
The trio of Scottie Thompson, Dwight Ramos, and Kai Sotto though provided the back-breaking buckets to seal the win for the Philippines.
“I think we got a lot of energy from the crowd. They really gave us a huge boost and did not allow us to lose until we hit our stride, and hit our shots in the third quarter. And then we were able to use our defense essentially to pull off the victory,” added Reyes, who claimed his first window sweep since Window 1 of the 2019 qualis.
Ramos, who was limited to just five points by Jordan as he had to defend Dar Tucker, got his rhythm back, finishing with 13 points, four assists, and three steals. CJ Perez, meanwhile, provided the off-the-bench spark with 10 points.
Sotto remained solid for Gilas as well, tallying 10 points, nine rebounds, and five blocks while Thompson tallied nine points, nine rebounds, three assists, and two steals.
Gilas rose to 5-3 while dropping Saudi Arabia to 2-6.
Mathna Almarwani led Saudi with 19 points and eight rebounds while Khalid Abdel Gabar added 16 points, five rebounds, and five assists.
Gilas will close their qualifiers campaign at home in February. They face Lebanon on February 25 before taking on Jordan on the 28th.
Philippines 76 — Ramos 13, Pogoy 13, Sotto 11, Perez 10, Thompson 9, Parks 8, Aguilar 6, Kouame 5, Malonzo 1, Oftana 0, Erram 0, Quiambao 0.
Saudi Arabia 63 — Almarwani Ma. 19, Abdel Gabar 16, Almarwani Mo. 8, Kadi 6, Aljohar 5, Ashoor 4, Shubayli 2, Mohammed 2, Belal 1, Saleh 0, Almuwallad 0, Albargawi 0.
Quarterscores: 16-16, 31-25, 55-45, 76-63.