MANILA, Philippines — Angolan big man Bruno Fernando praised June Mar Fajardo and “well coached” Gilas Pilipinas on Sunday night.
Fernando helped Angola advance to the second round after defeating Gilas, 80-70, in Group A of the Fiba Basketball World Cup in front of 12,784 fans at Araneta Coliseum.
“(It’s a) well-trained team. Lots of talent, lots of guys who really know how to play basketball. They made it difficult for us, we were able to go out and fight against them. Number 15, Fajardo, much deserved, someone we all have to respect. He has a lot of play,” Fernando told reporters.
“Obviously Jordan is the head of the snake. Thanks to them, the team and the coach. Very well coached team. Great win for us.
Fajardo, who shone with 16 points and seven rebounds in Friday’s loss to the Dominican Republic, still caught Fernando’s attention even though he finished with just four of 2-of-5 shooting points on the field with seven rebounds.
Fernando, 25, meanwhile showed why he’s a member of the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA with 14 points, including a monstrous dunk, and seven rebounds.
The 6-foot-10 center said Angola needed to assert their aggression to slow down the Filipinos after their strong first quarter.
“We just had to be aggressive. I think that’s something we know we have an advantage on. We have an advantage against many teams. We have a lot of bodies to throw at people,” Fernando said. “We just keep going out there and being very aggressive. We just keep doing our best to take advantage of their mistakes defensively and today was a great day. We will use it and move on to the next.
Fernando was relieved after securing the crucial win as the Angolans bounced back from a tough loss to Italy, which they leveled at 1-1.
“It means a lot to us. It was a great win and we needed it. Like what I kept saying, thanks to the team. Coached very well. But it’s also our honour. We are come here to try to beat us. We know there will be a lot of things against them at home: the referees, the public, the possibility of facing them on the pitch,” he said. “It was a great victory. We are just happy to have won this victory, we are just happy to have won this victory, to celebrate, to enjoy it and to worry about the next one.
After picking up his first win, Fernando is preparing for Angola’s must-win game against the undefeated Dominican Republic, led by three-time NBA All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns.
“It is going to be difficult. Like I said, we’re going to come out with the same energy as today,” he said.
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