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FINE-TUNING GAME GNAWS AT GILAS

GOOD thing Wednesday’s game was merely an exhibition and not an actual FIBA Asia game.

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If not, according to Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes, his team would have been in a lot of trouble notwithstanding a 99-87 win over a PBA Selection in the MyPhone-sponsored match at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

Seemingly sleepwalking for majority of the game, the Nationals woke up only in the fourth quarter to flash the fiery form expected of them and into the cruising win that still failed to please Reyes.

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“With one week to go before FIBA Asia there’s absolutely no excuse for the way we played in the first half. It was a terrible, terrible game,” said Reyes, whose charges are in the last stages of their preparations for the continental championship set Aug. 1 to 11.

“If we were up against Chinese Taipei or Jordan, we would have been down 20 at the half,” added Reyes.

Reyes specifically pointed an accusing finger at starting point guard Jayson Castro and first reliever LA Tenorio, who got Gilas off to a bad start. “If you noticed I benched Castro in the second half,” he pointed out.

“Jayson already had five turnovers in the first half. I mean, the way he was playing he shouldn’t have been in this team. Our point guards, Jayson and LA, were terrible tonight. if not for Jimmy (Alapag) we would have been in big trouble.”

Alapag did put some semblance of order for Gilas and it started to hum more smoothly at about the same time Gabe Norwood, Ranidel de Ocampo, Gary David and June Mar Fajardo finally got their flow.

As a result, the Nationals easily broke off from a 67-66 count through a decisive 27-4 exchange that gave them their biggest lead at 94-70, going into the game’s last four minutes.

De Ocampo wound up with 16 points, while the likes of David, Norwood, Jeff Chan and Marcus Douthit had at least 11 points each for Gilas, which committed a total 21 turnovers.

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Reyes can only hope his charges play much better in a similar tuneup game against Kazakhstan Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“I hope it’s different Friday,” said Reyes. “It’s only two ways. Either this will get them down or this will get them fired up for Friday. I’m banking on the latter.”

Arwind Santos led all scorers with 21 points, but he was the lone bright spot for the Selection, which hardly had a practice and had Cyrus Baguio, Jayvee Casio and Calvin Abueva of Alaska arriving only from abroad Tuesday morning.

Joe Devance also did not play due to a groin injury he suffered in a San Mig Coffee practice and he was replaced by teammate Rafi Reavis.

In contrast, Gilas has been together as a team since May and is coming off a 10-day stint in New Zealand and those facts only tend to heat Reyes up even more.

“I thought we were making good progress in practice,” said Reyes. “After New Zealand I thought we were in the 80 to 85 (percent) level but we took a huge step backward with tonight’s performance.

“You can probably chalk it up to them being too tired or too excited since this is their first game on home soil since June. Maybe they’re too excited, too careful playing against their former teammates. Let’s see Friday if it gets any better.”

There are indeed lots of room for improvement as the Selection more than battled Gilas on more than even terms through the first three quarters, even taking a 56-50 lead and keeping within 61-65 going to the last period.

Chris Tiu added 14 points for the Selection with Nino Canaleta and Paul Lee chipping in 13 points apiece.

The scores:

Gilas Pilipinas 99 – De Ocampo 16, David 14, Chan 13, Norwood 13, Douthit 11, Fajardo 8, Aguilar 6, Fonacier 5, Alapag 4, Castro 4, Tenorio 3, Pingris 2, Belga 0.

PBA All Stars 87 – Santos 21, Tiu 14, Canaleta 13, Lee 13, Ellis 9, Reavis 6, Abueva 5, Casio 3, Baguio 2, Cabagnot 1, Simon 0, Barroca 0, Washington 0.

Quarters: 16-13, 38-41, 65-61, 99-87.

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