By Justine Juyad

PHOTO: Rappler

Gilas Pilipinas failed to sustain their hot offense in the opening quarter as they suffered a 95-80 loss at the hands of Lebanon in their first game at the 2022 FIBA Asia Cup in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday evening.

The Philippines collapsed on both ends in the second quarter and fell short to pull off their fourth quarter comeback, causing their first loss in their Asia Cup campaign.

“We have a very young team here, and for them to be able to experience this kind of very high-level competition, I think that’s the most important thing,” Coach Chot Reyes said.

Korean Basketball League-bound SJ Belangel's 17 points led Gilas in scoring while Bobby Ray Parks Jr., who made his national team comeback, collected 15 points behind his 4/7 shooting beyond the arc.

Belangel's nine points, including a buzzer-beating three, and Parks's two three-pointers powered Gilas’ hot opener as they closed the first quarter up by five, 27-22.

But the Filipinos experienced a shooting slump in the second quarter as they only squeezed three field goals and eventually lost momentum.

Unfortunately, Thirdy Ravena got a cut near his right eye after a bad landing coming from a chasedown block attempt, 1:14 left in the second, as Gilas finished the first half down by seven, 46-39.

Thirdy decided to play the second half as coach Chot stuck to his usual guys, allowing more open threes and making it easy for Lebanon to stretch their lead to as much as 22.

UAAP standouts Belangel and Carl Tamayo provided some limelight for the Philippine team as they anchored a 14-1 run in the fourth quarter, with Tamayo's seven of 15 points and SJ's three-point play cutting the lead to a single digit with less than five minutes to play.

However, the valiant efforts of the young guns were not enough to tow the load for Gilas as they nicked their fightback hopes with the Lebanese securing the victory.

"Sa mga kababayan ko, pasensya na kinapos tayo ngayon pero lalaban tayo [dahil] di pa tapos yung liga," Tamayo stated in a post game interview.

On the other hand, world no. 54 Lebanon started their campaign with a convincing win as they maximized their height advantage against the 34th-ranked Gilas.

Wael Arakji collected 20 points and four assists while Hayk Gyokchyan provided 19 points and eight boards. Their naturalized center Jonathan Arledge also chipped in 19 points, six rebounds, two blocks, and two steals for the win.

Gilas Pilipinas will look to get their first win in the tournament against India on Friday.

Edited by Jostle Doen Pilayre