By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
After ending the first quarter with a momentum-clinching five-point lead, the Gilas Pilipinas men’s national basketball team failed to hold their ground against Lebanon and opened their 2022 FIBA Asia Cup campaign with a 95-80 loss.
Spearheaded by Bobby Ray Parks Jr. who immediately announced his return after burying two-straight treys, the Filipino hoopers were off to a rousing start and scored their highest opening quarter with 27 points since their New Zealand encounter during the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers.
The Filipinos had a desirable start in the first 10 minutes of the duel as they sank four quick triples courtesy of SJ Belangel and Parks Jr. despite turning the ball over, resulting to several easy scores for Lebanon.
Thirdy Ravena also put his imprints early in the game after penetrating his way for two tough layups that put pressure on the Lebanese frontcourt.
However, after 10 minutes of flawless basketball, Gilas suddenly went cold and slowed down in the next two quarters which allowed Lebanon to take advantage and snowball their way to a 22-point lead.
Lebanon outscored Gilas, 57-31, in the next two quarters led by main gunners Wael Arakji and Hayk Gyokchyan who scored 20 and 19 points, respectively.
Needing a spark to spearhead a comeback, Gilas’ head coach Chot Reyes deployed an unusual five of William Navarro, Poy Erram, Carl Tamayo, Rhenz Abando, and Belangel.
That move seemed to pay dividends as the squad pulled Gilas within nine points from a 21-point deficit after the crafty Belangel converted an and-one opportunity with four minutes remaining in the game.
The Lebanese, however, regained composure behind their gunners who came roaring back and uncorked 11 points in just three minutes, shattering the Filipinos’ dreams of a stellar come-from-behind win.
Belangel top-scored Gilas with 17 huge points followed by 15-apiece from Parks Jr. and Tamayo while Thirdy Ravena chipped in 10 points.