A day before their departure for Tehran for the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, Gilas Pilipinas topped the iECO Green Warriors, 99-82, in a scrimmage held Sunday morning at the Meralco Gym.
Playing for the first time together against competition, the Yeng Guiao-mentored squad used a fourth quarter surge to pull away in a game where they led by just 8 points at the half, 43-35.
"We needed this game badly," Coach Guiao admitted. "It's our only scrimmage before we leave, and we have to put everything into it and make an assessment and evaluation on what we need to do after this game."
Coach Ariel Vanguardia's Green Warriors made things more difficult in the third period, as the team banked on the relentless attack of Filipino-American Joshua Munzon to get within striking distance at the end of the quarter, only down by 6 points, 70-64.
However, Gilas got its bearings and clamped down on defense while also utilizing their speed to break away in the final 10 minutes. Matthew Wright and Stanley Pringle were instrumental in the attack, as they got out in transition to leave their opponents in the dust. In the end, the national squad outscored their opponents 29-18 in the fourth to win going away.
"We finished the game really strong," Guiao noted. "We had some lapses with the offensive rebounds. This is a strong team that boss Dioceldo [Sy] formed. It's a good test for us."
The Green Warriors, a squad that will be competing in the Asia League Fest Terrific 12 tournament in Macau this month, had a lineup composed of current PBA players like Mark Cruz and James Sena on loan from Blackwater, and players with PBA experience in Jai Reyes and Gab Banal. The duo most recently were the starting backcourt for the PBA D-League champions Go For Gold Scratchers. The team was also strengthened with the arrival of ABL standouts and former Westports Malaysia Dragons Joshua Munzon and Avery Scharer.
Playing without Christian Standhardinger (stomach flu) and Greg Slaughter (ankle), the national team relied on their speed up and down the floor as well as pressure defense to force turnovers. According to Guiao, it was a good simulation for how they plan to attack Iran in their FIBA Asia Qualifier match on September 13.
"I'm impressed with the speed that we put in, because that's what we're going to rely on versus Iran," Guiao said. We want the game to go up and down, be open court, fast and quick. That's where I think we can have an advantage. If we play half court basketball against them, we're in trouble. We have to push the pace of the game."
Gilas Pilipinas will be departing for Iran on Monday evening, September 10.