Two young cagers, Mason Amos, and Jamie Malonzo played off the bench along with Justine Brownlee and delivered key baskets and crucial plays that allowed Gilas Pilipinas to shine in their game against Lebanon on Friday evening.
National coach Chot Reyes gave thumbs up to his young guns after Gilas Pilipinas turned back Lebanon with deadly outside shooting for a 107-96 victory at the start of the FIBA Basketball World Cup Asian qualifiers’ sixth window at the Philippine Arena.
Reyes said he saw potential in the games of Amos and Malonzo — two reserve players who stepped up in the absence of taller players in the roster.
“I’m so happy about this development. Being the two bigs in the second unit, the way they played was a reflection on how well the second unit delivered,” said Reyes.
The Filipinos found themselves grabbing a 25-19 edge at the end of the opening period off Malonzo’s layup at the 24-second mark.
In the absences of big men Kai Sotto, Japeth Aguilar, and Carl Tamayo, Gilas only had June Mar Fajardo as the only legitimate center, and they found the needed adjustments with Malonzo helping Fajardo under the boards.
The adjustments done made Gilas a speedier squad, and they also slightly outrebounded Lebanon, 38-34, in the end, with Fajardo, Malonzo, and Scottie Thompson coming up with five rebounds apiece.
Amos was one of the key factors with his outside sniping, particularly when he sank a three in the final 3:04, and handing Gilas a 19-point spread, 74-55.
“You can see his shooting prowess for a big man and that’s a weapon that we feel that we can continuously exploit and that we can use moving forward. So, I’m very happy about that development,” said Reyes.
Brownlee debuted and came off the bench with 17 points, to go with four rebounds and five assists for Gilas, which picked up their sixth win in nine games in Pool E.