Fil-Am Jordan Clarkson dazzled on his first ever home game, putting on a gallant show as Gilas Pilipinas eked out an 84-46 rousing win over Saudi Arabia in their fourth window game at the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers on Monday night, August 29, at the jam packed Mall of Asia Arena.
The Utah Jazz star churned out 17 of his 23 points in the first half on top of five rebounds and six assists, to the delight of the 19,289 MOA crowd led by no less than President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., who cheered for the national team.
Senators Christopher “Bong” Go, Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, and Francis Tolentino were also spotted among other politicians and celebrities who gave Gilas the needed morale booster after absorbing an 81-85 loss at the hands of the Lebanon Cedars in Beirut a few days ago.
Jordan Clarkson & Kai Sotto lead the team
Gilas trailed by three points at the start, but Jordan Clarkson led the charge to settle Gilas as Dwight Ramos and the rest helped the Filipinos snatch the lead, 37-28, at the break and never looked back to wrap up the victory.
Kai Sotto chipped in 16 markers with 13 boards and four block shots as Ramos made nine points, six rebounds, and two assists for Gilas to improve to a 3-3 win-loss card in Group E.
A Calvin Oftana corner floater in the last 70 seconds gave the nationals an 84-44 lead in the game.
Khalid Abdel Gabar led Saudi Arabia (1-5) with nine baskets and nine rebounds.
Coach Chot Reyes, in a post-game press conference, said, “I’m very happy for the result, even happier for the effort that the players, starting with the guy beside me, put forth in this ballgame.”
Clarkson, for his part, said: “I think we did a good job. We made some adjustments during the game against them (Saudis).”
He also cited the crowd’s enthusiasm, saying, “I think I felt all the energy in the crowd, I think we all did, as a team. It is different playing at home, in front of your own people, and this arena is beautiful. I cannot wait to come back here again and play some more games.”
Sotto, who is heading back to Australia to join the Adelaide 36ers in preparation for the 2022-23 National Basketball League, vowed to become better as he never had a perfect game, thinking that he didn’t play well enough.
“But, we won, so a win is a win. So I’m happy with that,” the seven-foot-three center said.
President Marcos in attendance
President Marcos, meanwhile, arrived late in the third period with the Filipinos ahead by a huge margin.
On his Facebook, the President said, “Binabati natin ang Gilas Pilipinas sa kanilang panalo laban sa koponan ng Saudi Arabia sa naganap na FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers Game kagabi. Kumpiyansa tayo na gagawin nila ang lahat ng kanilang makakaya para makapagdala ng karangalan sa bansa (We congratulate Gilas Pilipinas for their win against the Saudi Arabian team in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers Game that took place last night. We are confident that they will do everything they can to bring honor to the country).
Senator Go, in a statement said, “As Chair of the Senate Committee on Sports, it is with great pride and honor that I express my sincerest gratitude and congratulations to each and every member of Team Gilas Pilipinas for their unwavering devotion to our country through their commendable performance in front of the Filipino crowd.”
On the other hand, Lebanon advanced to its first-ever FIBA World Cup appearance after crushing India, 95-63, for their second straight win in the fourth window.
The Box Score:
Philippines 84 – Clarkson 23, Sotto 16, Ramos 9, Aguilar 8, K. Ravena 8, Parks 6, Oftana 6, T. Ravena 4, Thompson 2, Malonzo 2, Newsome 0, Adams 0.
Saudi Arabia 46 – Abdel Gabar 9, Kadi 9, Ma. Almarwani 9, Mo Almarwani 8, Almuwallad 4, Belal 3, Mohammed 2, Abo Jalas 2, Alsager 0, Albargawi 0.
Quarterscores: 14-11; 37-28; 61-36; 84-46.