Saturday night marked yet another victory for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2017 SEABA Championship for Men after they lambasted their Singaporean counterparts by 47. And as usual, they deplayed another balanced attack.
Calvin Abueva may have led the Nationals’ attack once more with 16 points in the 113-66 victory, but it was Gilas cadet Matthew Wright who shone the brightest, earning the Best Player of the Game nod even with just 13 markers.
In the wire-to-wire win, Wright shot 3-of-5 from the floor, with 2-of-3 of those coming from rainbow country — his second and last three-pointer came with 4:58 left in the payoff period, where it lifted Gilas to the century mark, 100-59.
After Saturday night, the 26-year-old Filipino-Canadian now averages 12.5 points in the last two games, and has hit 6-of-10 triples so far. And given the tournament’s landscape, his stats will surely shoot up higher.
As if his night could not get any better, Wright’s notable outing was witnessed by none other than Phoenix Fuel Masters Ariel Vanguardia — the same coach that had lured him to the Philippines after his college stint at St. Bonaventure.
And Vanguardia could not hide his admiration of his prized player, whom he has been with ever since their days with the Westports Malaysia Dragons in the ASEAN Basketball League.
“Knowing him because I coached him and I’ve been trying to recruit him when he was in college pa lang, I knew what he’s capable of doing,” said the 44-year-old mentor. “I’m happy sa performance niya ngayon.
“I think he’s well-adapted in the international game. Magandang asset for the national team. He’s also young so yung programa ni coach Chot for the years to come, talagang fit siya,” continued Vanguardia.
Ever since Wright became known by many, expectations suddenly ran high on him. But the former ABL Most Valuable Player tries his best not to dwell on it that much, reiterating that Team Pilipinas will always be about flag and country.
And of course, it’s about rising as one solid unit.
“Everyone on this team is a go-to-guy,” said Wright. “Everybody has egos, but everyone has to play selfless when you play for the country. It’s way bigger than individual stats, it’s way bigger than personal accolades.
“Everybody has to go on and make extra pass and look for each other and being selfless,” Gilas’ sniper declared.
The Philippines is now on a 2-0 start in the regional tourney. But despite the lopsided wins, Wright still sees a lot of things they should work on — particularly the desire to go for the kill whenever they set foot on the court.
“We have to learn how to have a killer instinct and put our foot right from the get-go, no holding back and don’t give them a chance,” Wright said.
Wright and Gilas will look to make it a three-game winning streak as they face Malaysia tomorrow, Sunday, May 14, at 7:00 PM, and he hopes that they can sustain the momentum in this title quest of theirs.
“We’re gonna keep trying to impose our will and play Philippine basketball, and hopefully we keep moving,” hoped Wright.