Gilas Pilipinas threw duds and clunkers three-fourths of the way then Terrence Romeo and Calvin Abueva came in to save the day for Gilas Pilipinasversus the Wellington Saints in Day two of the Master Game Face MVP Cup at Smart Araneta Coliseum Saturday night.
Romeo and Abueva, Gilas rookies with big fighting hearts, combined for 26 points in the last 12 minutes, keying an amazing turnaround that led to an 84-81 Gilas conquest of the Kiwis – a virtual repeat of their matchup in the recent Jones Cup in Taipei.
“We knew we’re gonna have a hard time rebounding and when you can’t rebound effectively, it would be hard to run and it’s tough for your running game to get going,” said Gilas coach Tab Baldwin.
“We couldn’t get to find guys to make shots. But then Romeo got hot and we got schemes and variations on our attack,” Baldwin also said making special mention of the guy who stood out with four crucial three-pointers and the game-winning charities in the closing seconds.
Romeo fired all but two of his 18 points in the last 12 minutes of the game while Abueva tossed in all of his 10 markers over the same stretch, allowing Gilas to come back from a 13-point deficit late in the third.
Gilas Pilipinas was still staring at a double-digit deficit at 63-73 when Abueva scored successive baskets on one-hand loopers while Romeo banged in a three treys in a decisive attack that pushed Philippinea ahead at 78-76 entering the last three minutes of play.
“Probably, it took me a little too long to make adjustments. Ranidel (de Ocampo) couldn’t hit a shot; same with Dondon (Hontiveros), Jayson (Castro), Gabe (Norwood) and JC (Intal),” said Baldwin.
Castro was 0-of-5, Norwood 0-of-4, De Ocampo 0-of-2, Andray Blatche 1-of-4 and Hontiveros 2-of-6 on their woeful three-point shooting.
The Nationals fired blanks even when the Kiwis were giving away the outside shots on their two-three zone defense.
But that was before Romeo came in.
Curiously, the former FEU star fared worse from the stripe, hitting 4-of-8 triples and 2-of-7 foul shots.
But with the game in the balance in the closing seconds, Romeo delivered from the line, capping another performance to remember as new member of the national team.
“It’s great to get a win. I told everybody that New Zealand is tough. (Playing coach Kevin) Braswell is a proto type of an old school point guard who can control the game. Their bigs were a handful,” said Baldwin.
True enough, Braswell, a former Georgetown U standout, took the Filipinos to school early on, collecting a 25 points, five assists and three rebounds.
But Romeo had the last laugh.(SB)