In front of a cheering Filipino crowd inside the Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex, Gilas Pilipinas capped of their preliminary round with a slim 80-74 win over Qatar. The victory officially completed the Filipinos’ sweep of group B.
Playing without big men June Mar Fajardo and Christian Standhardinger, who are nursing injuries, Gilas saw their wing guys step up.
Matthew Wright caught fire from deep and poured in 25 points on seven made triples. He also added four assists, a rebound and a steal. Carl Bryan Cruz also found his touch and knocked down three treys on his way to 13 points. Gabe Norwood chipped in with an all-around performance of 10 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and two blocks.
In the third quarter, Gilas saw their lead reach its high of 20 points. But Qatar kept knocking on their door. They went on an 8-0 blitz to trim the Filipinos’ lead to five, 73-68, with 2:36 remaining in the game. But that’s when Wright teamed up with Terrence Romeo to buy some cushion and seal the win for the Philippines.
Despite getting their third consecutive win, Coach Chot Reyes told the boys that he wasn’t particularly happy with how the team played.
“You all know that if we had played Korea or Japan tonight, we would have been heading home,” he said in the post-game huddle. “No way we’ll win like that. Seventeen turnovers. We shot less than 40 percent from the field. We couldn’t stop [Mansour Elhadary].”
The Qatari guard paced his team with 23 points while shooting an efficient 10-for-15 from the field. He also finished with six assists and three steals. Abdulrahman Saad helped out with a double-double of 18 points and 11 boards.
After the game, the Filipino fans hosted a dinner for Gilas Pilipinas. They celebrated with their heroes, bonding and taking selfies with their idols over the meal.
As they await the winner of the qualifying match between Korea and Japan, Gilas Pilipinas will take two days off. They will play again at 2 a.m. on Thursday (Manila time) in the knockout quarterfinals.