JAKARTA — Francis Lopez was all smiles after finally making his FIBA Asia Cup 2022 on Friday, as Gilas Pilipinas faced a familiar foe in India.
The 19-year-old winger was the only one not fielded in their campaign opener against Lebanon last Wednesday, so head coach Chot Reyes deemed it best to give him the opportunity against the team from South Asia.
And capitalize, he did. The former Ateneo Blue Eaglet registered eight points, five rebounds, two steals, an assist, and a block each as he helped the Filipino dribblers break through the win column through a 101-59 decision.
“Sobrang saya kasi nakapag-laro na rin,” expressed Lopez moments after the match at the Istora Senayan inside the GBK Complex here.
The 6-foot-5 cager was actually fielded as a starter versus India, where he joined Kiefer Ravena, Ray Parks, Carl Tamayo, and Geo Chiu.
He even provided one of the game’s highlights early, finishing a break with a tomahawk slam for an apt response to a two-handed jam from the opposition from the other end that saw Chiu get dunked on.
“We’re just happy for a win,” said Lopez, who has been with Gilas Men since the Asia Cup Qualifiers last year.
“We just gotta keep going.”
With his first game now in the books, the kid from Las Pinas now has his sights locked on Sunday, where they will be taking on New Zealand,
And there’s no shortage of motivation whatsoever for Lopez and Co., especially with what happened during the World Cup Qualifiers recently, where they absorbed a humiliating 46-point beatdown to the Tall Blacks.
The former Overtime Elite commit vowed that Gilas is coming into the match as prepared as it can be in a bid to exact vengeance.
“Sabi nga ni Coach Nenad [Vucinic], Coach Chot [Reyes] to us, masama ‘yung nilaro namin. Pero babawi kami this time. Sobrang masakit sa amin ‘yun, you know, nakakahiya. Pero this time, hindi talaga kami magpapatalo. Lalaban kami,” he said.
“Big motivation for us yung talo namin kasi, it was a big lead. This time we’re gonna fight. That’s it. We’re really prepared, and we just gotta stay focused this time — more focused.”
Highlights of the games will also be on SMART Sports.