MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE)—June Mar Fajardo was unstoppable, and the Philippine men's basketball team improved to 2-0 in Group A of the 30th Southeast Asian Games after a 110-69 rout of Vietnam at Mall of Asia Arena on Friday night.
Fajardo, the five-time PBA Most Valuable Player, had 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds in just 15 minutes of action. Five other players scored in double digits, as Gilas shot 49.4% from the field and scored 22 second-chance points after grabbing 20 offensive rebounds.
Like head coach Tim Cone predicted, it was a tougher game than the Filipinos' 110-58 demolition of Singapore on Wednesday night as they initially struggled to gain separation from a gritty Vietnam squad.
Still, Gilas Pilipinas proved too deep and too strong in a win that put Cone and co. on top of Group A and gave them a spot in the semifinals.
"Well, it was a real struggle early," said Cone. "They got some athletes, they got some real athletes on that team . . . But as we expect ourselves to do, we expect ourselves to wear down teams."
A slow start by Gilas allowed Vietnam to stay within striking distance, before the entry of Christian Standhardinger, LA Tenorio and Marcio Lassiter fueled the home team's breakaway. Fajardo began to assert himself as well, and Gilas pulled away 52-40 at the half.
With Fajardo proving unstoppable, the Filipinos poured it on in the third quarter. They opened the frame with a 10-0 run, and Fajardo went on to feast inside the paint against Vietnam's smaller frontcourt. The "Kraken" scored 12 points in the frame to power the Philippines to an 80-57 lead.
Japeth Aguilar also got in on the act, throwing down a huge two-handed slam dunk on the break that drew the biggest cheers of the night.
Vic Manuel, much like he did against Singapore, put the finishing touches on the win in the fourth quarter. The lead ballooned to 44 points, 110-66, with less than two minutes left off a Lassiter jump shot.
Despite another lopsided win, Cone praised Vietnam as "one of the toughest, if not the toughest" squad in the SEA Games.
"We still beat them by 30, 40 points. So that's good news for us," he added.
Chris Dierker led Vietnam with 28 points and 9 rebounds, but Justin Young was the only other Vietnamese in double digits with 13 points. The visitors shot just 29.7% from the field, and grabbed just 30 rebounds to the Philippines' 69.
Vietnam is still through to the semifinals on account of its wins over Singapore and Myanmar.
The Filipinos return to action on Saturday against Myanmar (0-2), still at the MoA Arena.
PHILIPPINES 110 -- Fajardo 23, Tenorio 14, Manuel 14, Rosario 12, Pringle 11, Slaughter 10, Wright 7, Lassiter 6, Aguilar 6, Ravena 5, Ross 1, Standhardinger 1.
VIETNAM 69 -- Dierker 28, Young 13, Tran 7, Le 6, T. Dinh 5, H. Nguyen 4, S. Dinh 3, Vo 2, Du 1, T. Nguyen 0, S. Nguyen 0.
Quarters: 27-19, 52-40, 80-57, 110-69.
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