Even though Gilas Pilipinas enjoyed double-digit leads in its 77-71 win over Japan on Friday, the visiting Filipinos never felt complacent knowing how potent the home team is.
“We have a very high respect for Japan and we knew that were in for a tough match,” he said after the victory to start its 2019 Fiba World Cup Asian qualifying bid. “When we had a nice lead, we know that they have the ability to come back because they’re a quality team.”
The Philippines lost hold of an early 14-point lead as Japan came out of the halftime break more determined and managed to get ahead, 40-37.
The furious fightback from the home team didn’t surprise Reyes one bit, especially with the likes of Makoto Hiejima, Yuki Togashi, and naturalized player Ira Brown backstopping the Japanese. team
“We knew we had to contain guys like Togashi and Hiejima, and we knew what Ira Brown can do. But outside of the three, it’s a deep team and guys like (Daiki) Tanaka, (Tenketsu) Harimoto, and (Takatoshi) Furukawa gave them a big lift tonight. All of those guys, we had to be very conscious of and we had to devise a gameplan for them. It’s the kind of team Japan is, it’s a deep team, skilled, talented, and very well-coached,” he said.
Luckily for the Philippines, Jayson Castro and Andray Blatche were there to stabilize the ship as the shots finally went in the end that even against the Akatsuki Five’s best efforts, Gilas held on to the win.
“It was important that when they came back and even got the lead, we stayed calm and did not panic,” said Reyes. “I think that’s the important part of the game, that the players remained positive and that allowed us to eventually get the victory.”
Gilas Pilipinas will now return home as they prepare for a duel against Chinese Taipei on Monday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.