The Philippine national men’s basketball team, playing with its final lineup for the FIBA Asia Championship for the first time, won its opening assignment in its New Zealand tour on Friday, defeating the Hawkes Bay Hawks, 82-78, at the Hastings Sports Centre in Napier.
“Bit out of sync but good first win today,” wrote assistant coach Josh Reyes on his Twitter account.
It was the first game for the Philippines since its final roster for was announced. The team is composed of naturalized center Marcus Douthit, Jimmy Alapag, Jayson Castro, Ranidel De Ocampo and Larry Fonacier of Talk ‘N Text, Rain or Shine’s Jeff Chan and Gabe Norwood, Ginebra’s LA Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar, GlobalPort’s Gary David, San Mig Coffee forward Marc Pingris and rookie June Mar Fajardo of Petron Blaze.
The Hawks are coached by Tab Baldwin, the veteran international campaigner who has been helping the Philippine team prepare for the Asian championship. Baldwin has called the shots for his native New Zealand, Jordan, and Lebanon, in international play, and his advice figures to be valuable for the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas squad gearing up for the FIBA Asia Championship.
The Philippine team returns to action on Saturday in a return match against the Hawks, who missed the final four of the National Basketball League. Gilas will play its third game in as many nights on Sunday, when it battles an All-Star team composed of imports and Kiwis from the NBL at the Pettigrew Green Arena in Napier.
The squad of coach Chot Reyes will battle the Wellington Saints on July 16 at the Te Rauparaha Arena, the Super City Rangers on July 17 at the St. Kentigerns School Gym in Auckland, and the Tall Blacks national squad in a closed-door matchup on July 18.