‘The Kraken’ unleashed as Gilas bucks slow start to down Chinese Taipei

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June Mar Fajardo put up arguably his best game so far for the Philippine national men’s basketball team, scoring 17 points and eight rebounds to help Gilas Pilipinas overcome a slow start and trounce Chinese Taipei, 90-83, in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers on Monday at SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

The four-time PBA MVP, who came off the bench early, poured in nine points in nine minutes in the first half to energize Gilas Pilipinas which had trailed 17-3 due to a 12-point outburst by Chinese Taipei naturalized player Quincy Davis in the opening period.

Matthew Wright then scored all of his 11 points in the fourth quarter to lift the Filipinos to the victory.

Jayson Castro top-scored once again for Gilas Pilipinas 20 points, four rebounds and four assists. Andray Blatche also had 14 rebounds and five blocks to go along with his six points.

With the victory, the Filipinos (2-0) now sit atop Group B along with Australia. Gilas Pilipinas beat Japan last Friday, 77-71, to open its qualifying campaign.

The Filipinos stumbled on a huge deficit in the early goings as they couldn’t find an answer to Davis.

Enter “The Kraken” who imposed his will inside and forced early foul trouble on Davis. Gilas Pilipinas closed the gap to just five, 23-18, after the first quarter.

The hosts finally took the lead, 28-27, on a Kiefer Ravena layup at the 7:14 mark of the second period which Gilas Pilipinas ended with a 44-42 edge.

Castro and Fajardo then scored eight points apiece in the third quarter to carry Gilas Pilipinas. But Chinese Taipei just wouldn’t go away as it stayed within striking distance.

Holding a slim 65-64 lead entering the final frame, Gilas Pilipinas found a savior in Wright who buried three triples in the period.

His breakaway layup with 2:31 left gave them a commanding 84-76 lead and finally took the fight out of Chinese Taipei.

With the first window now finished, Gilas Pilipinas will return to action in February to face powerhouse Australia and Japan.