The Philippine national basketball team, Gilas Pilipinas, delivered a stellar performance as they marked their debut in the Heyuan WUS International Basketball Tournament with an impressive 76-65 victory over Iran on Thursday, August 3. Despite missing key players Kai Sotto and Scottie Thompson due to injuries and competing without a naturalized player, the undermanned Gilas squad showcased their determination and skill on the court.
The Filipinos’ victory was anchored by a standout third-quarter performance, spearheaded by CJ Perez, who took over the game during this crucial period. AJ Edu and Rhenz Abando also shone bright, demonstrating promising potential and contributing significantly to the team’s victory.
The game was closely contested in the first half, with Iran staying within striking distance. The Philippines held a slim 44-41 lead early in the third quarter before Rhenz Abando’s explosive play turned the tide. Abando’s block was swiftly followed by a breakaway dunk, propelling Gilas to a 46-41 lead and igniting a series of scoring runs.
June Mar Fajardo showcased his veteran presence, scoring consecutive buckets and assisting Edu for another basket, allowing Gilas to establish a commanding 52-41 advantage. The momentum continued as CJ Perez stepped up, contributing all seven of his points towards the end of the quarter, resulting in a substantial 59-46 lead for the Filipinos.
Gilas Pilipinas extended their lead in the fourth quarter, peaking at 69-47 after a well-executed three-point play by Calvin Oftana. This lead proved insurmountable for Iran, despite their valiant attempts at a late-game comeback. The Iranians capitalized on turnovers to narrow the gap, reducing the deficit from 22 points to just nine, with a score of 74-65 and 40 seconds remaining. However, AJ Edu emphatically sealed the victory for Gilas with a powerful two-handed dunk, setting the final score at 76-65 in favor of the Philippines.
Notably absent from the lineup were key players Kai Sotto and Scottie Thompson, both sidelined due to injuries. The anticipation for NBA star Jordan Clarkson’s arrival continues, although his participation in the pocket tournament remains uncertain. Gilas Pilipinas aims to assemble a complete roster in preparation for the upcoming FIBA World Cup.
Jaime Malonzo led the offensive charge for Gilas, contributing 11 points and securing six rebounds. Dwight Ramos and Calvin Oftana also made significant contributions, each scoring 10 points. AJ Edu’s near double-double performance of nine points and nine rebounds further underscored his potential as a key player for the national team. Rhenz Abando showcased his versatility with eight points, two rebounds, and two blocks.
Gilas Pilipinas’ commanding victory over Iran sets a positive tone for their campaign in the Heyuan WUS International Basketball Tournament. With their next matchup against Senegal looming, the Filipinos aim to build on their strong start and continue their winning momentum on the international stage.