Gilas Pilipinas needed to make a statement.

The 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup was generally a success for the Philippines as a host, but there was a lot to be desired when it came to their play.

There was only one victory to speak of, which came against regional nemesis China, and the vitriol for Gilas’ system or lack thereof was felt from Aparri to Jolo.

Things needed to change and did so with Chot Reyes stepping down. In his wake, he left half-baked plans that threw interim head coach Tim Cone and his staff in disarray, but credit to them as they adapted instead of blaming anything and everything. Add Cone’s proper handling of off court issues and holding of both an open practice and tuneup game and it was, simply put, a breath of fresh air.

Much had been said about the all things pre-Asian Games, that Gilas Pilipinas’ first 2022 Asian Games’ contest against Bahrain felt like a ber-month breeze.

The rust was evident in the opening moments of the game, with missed open shots and defensive breakdowns keeping things close between the Philippines and Bahrain. That was until Justin Brownlee and CJ Perez took over.

Brownlee was pretty much unguardable once he got the ball from the perimeter, while Perez was a pest on a defensive end and got his offense going with his energy on both ends of the floor. The rest of Gilas followed suit as they powered their way past Bahrain on the way to an 89-61 victory.

This win was particularly sweet for Brownlee and Perez as the former was not part of Gilas Pilipinas’ FIBA World Cup roster, while Perez barely saw the court and when he did, it was too little too late.

Overall, the ball movement was crisp and the Philippines got rebounds with ease. Everyone except Arvin Tolentino scored at least one point, while Kevin Alas was the only one who didn’t grab a rebound. Nevertheless, this was the type of game that got the players, especially those that were inserted days before the Asian Games, into the groove and also gave the likes of Justin Brownlee (27 minutes), June Mar Fajardo (20 minutes), and Calvin Oftana more rest as the tougher stretches of the competition loom large.

Moving forward, Gilas will need to sharpen their defense, particularly in the perimeter as they struggled to contain Bahrain’s 3-point shooting early in the game. Future opponents may have also noted those moments when Gilas Pilipinas made some lazy passes and needed more time to get out of the press and they will likely pick up on this and test them with some increased pressure. 

Gilas Pilipinas’ win over Bahrain in the 2022 Asian Games Men’s 5×5 Basketball competition was a reminder to themselves of what they can do and rightly drew rave reviews from those that watched. The job is far from done, but a victory like this puts them in the right direction after weeks of uncertainty.