MANILA, Philippines—After setting the tone defensively for Gilas Pilipinas in their first three games in the 30th Southeast Asian Games, veteran point guard Chris Ross made his mark on the other end during their semifinal game against Indonesia.
Ross scored just one point in Gilas' three-game sweep of Group A, preferring to set up his teammates to the tune of 8 assists per game, while doing damage on the defensive end.
Against Indonesia in the semifinal, however, Ross found his scoring touch. He scored 11 points, 9 of which came in the pivotal third quarter, to spark the Philippines' 97-70 rout of Indonesia, sending the hosts to the gold medal game.
"I was just trying to be aggressive, take what the defense gives me," said Ross, whose back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the third period sparked a 16-0 run that put Gilas in complete control of the contest.
"It's never a concentrated effort on offense for me, it's always defensively for me. I pride myself on defense," he added. "I was more so pleased with the way we defended as a team when we went on that run."
That Ross knew exactly what he needed to do to get the team on track came as no surprise to Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tim Cone.
Cone and Ross have had their battles in the PBA, with Barangay Ginebra and San Miguel Beer fighting for supremacy virtually every conference since Cone took over the league's most popular franchise. The mentor knows quite well Ross' tendency to elevate his game when the stakes are high.
"How many times have you seen Chris step up in big, really important games and knock down 3-point shots?" Cone said. "It's really amazing, he has a real uncanny knack for that, playing and doing what he has to do to pick up the team."
"He's always done that throughout his career, and that's one of the big reasons, I think one of the major reasons — along with June Mar (Fajardo), of course — of San Miguel's success," he added.
For Cone, Ross' 3-pointers in the third quarter were instrumental in their win. Gilas was leading by just 8 points at that point, but Ross' big shots allowed the Philippines to finally break the game open. They would go on to lead by 36 points.
"The two 3s of Chris Ross in the third quarter, after the halftime, kind of knocked the lid off our basket. Suddenly, it looked open, and everybody could knock down shots. But until he made those two shots, it was like there was a lid on top of the basket, we just couldn't shoot," said Cone.
"That got us going and that keyed our run, and it took the pressure off us," he added.
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