A post-game huddle of Gilas (DBP photo)

Gilas Pilipinas effortlessly secured a victory against Iran in a basketball face-off at the Heyuan WUS International Basketball Tournament held in China on Thursday.

Powered by the impressive performances of Jaime Malonzo and Dwight Ramos, the Philippine national team triumphed with a final score of 76-65 against the Iranian opponents.

Malonzo contributed 11 points along with six rebounds, while Ramos and Calvin Oftana each chipped in with 10 points. EJ Edu came close to achieving a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds, while Roger Pogoy and Rhenz Abando both contributed eight points. Amir Hosein Yazarlou led the Iranian squad with eight points.

The national team, which traveled to China for vital preparations ahead of the FIBA World Cup, is set to face Senegal in their upcoming match on Friday.

This victory holds significance for the national team, especially as they competed in Guangdong without the presence of Kai Sotto. Notably absent from the lineup were NBA star Jordan Clarkson, as well as naturalized players Justin Brownlee and Ange Kouame.

Despite the win, Chot Reyes, the coach of Gilas Pilipinas, emphasized the urgent need for both the players and coaching staff to tackle the recurring problem of “slow starts” in their games on the heels of the team’s debacle at the hands of a tall Iranian squad.

“This challenge must be promptly addressed if the Philippine team intends to hold its ground against formidable opponents in the upcoming 2023 FIBA World Cup,” Reyes said.

The Philippines is set to co-host the FIBA tournament with Japan and Indonesia starting August 25.

Characterized by tentative offensive plays and a slight lag in defensive reactions, Gilas Pilipinas found themselves trailing by five points midway through the opening quarter in their recent match against Iran’s B team which amassed 23 points against Gilas’ defense.

However, the Filipino team managed to regain their composure offensively and fortify their defense during the subsequent second and third quarters, allowing them to establish a lead.

In the final period, Iran staged a comeback, resulting in a final score of 65-76 that brought some respectability to the loss.

Reyes commented on the team’s performance, stating, “Our start was unfavorable, and the conclusion was disappointing. I observed that we displayed commendable gameplay during the second and third quarters, which was the middle phase of the match. Yet, we must enhance our game’s beginnings and closures.”

Despite noteworthy contributions from players like Jamie Malonzo, who topped the team with 11 points and six rebounds; Dwight Ramos and Calvin Oftana, each contributing 10 points; and young center AJ Edu, who delivered nine points and the same number of rebounds, Reyes couldn’t hide his sense of “disappointment.”

Reyes further elaborated, “The conclusion of the match left me greatly dissatisfied.” He pinpointed Iran’s 14-3 surge in the final quarter as the turning point, which reduced Gilas’ once formidable 22-point lead to a mere 11 points with three minutes remaining.

The candid Gilas coach emphasized that the team must swiftly extract lessons from this experience, as they cannot afford to replicate the same level of performance when they face Senegal, a larger and more athletic opponent, on Friday night at 8 p.m.

“Senegal possesses an impressive combination of size, strength, and height,” Reyes remarked. “Consequently, facing them will be an immense test for us. To prepare for the upcoming game, I chose to rest some of my players during the fourth quarter.”