By JONAS TERRADO
Gilas Pilipinas shook off a slow start to beat host Vietnam, 88-60, Thursday, and raise its record to 4-0 in the men’s basketball competitions of the 31st Southeast Asian Games.
June Mar Fajardo, Kiefer Ravena and LeBron Lopez conspired in the second half as Gilas was able to take full control after Vietnam kept the game close in the first two quarters to secure the win before a packed crowd at the Thanh Tri Gym in Hanoi.
Fajardo posted 25 points and 11 rebounds, Ravena had 12 points and seven assists while Lopez also scored 12 points in another impressive showing as the Philippines moved two wins shy of claiming a 14th straight gold and 19th overall.
Thirdy Ravena had an all-around production with six points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
Coach Chot Reyes’ team will be off Friday but before beginning the latter stretch of its campaign this weekend against Malaysia and Indonesia.
It was the third straight game that Gilas won by a wide margin, but the scoreline didn’t reflect how the Filipino cagers endured some rough patches.
Gilas raced to a 14-4 lead after tipoff, only to see Vietnam trim the gap to 20-17 at the end of the first quarter behind Chris Dierker.
Dierker, who ended up with 20 points, kept Vietnam within striking distance in the second and only trailed 32-29 less than four minutes before halftime.
Five straight points courtesy of the Ravena brothers began a 10-4 windup and took a 42-33 lead at the break.
Meantime, Gilas Pilipinas continued its dominant form by routing host Vietnam, 118-87.
Not even the presence of a predominantly Vietnamese crowd could intimidate coach Pat Aquino’s squad as Gilas raced to a furious start and never looked back to remain undefeated after three outings.
Khate Castillo led the way for Gilas with 25 points highlighted by seven triples while Afril Bernardino once again had another strong showing after putting in 14 points, 12 rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
Gabi Bade scored 14 points while Camille Clarin and Clare Castro added 11 and 10 points.
The Pinay cagers moved two victories shy of retaining the gold via a five-game sweep.