The Gilas Pilipinas’ naturalized player Angelo Kouame finally made his much-anticipated debut versus South Korea and gained rave reviews for his steady play and solid presence inside the shaded lane.
As memorable as the game was, especially after guard SJ Belangel capped the win off with a buzzer-beating three-pointer, the 23-year old said it was the most demanding game he’s ever been in.
“That was the toughest game of my entire career but I’m expecting to see more games like that,” said Kouame. “It’s an experience we have to learn from and keep moving.”
Thrust into the fire against a Korean squad that was keen on avenging its loss to the Philippines when the two last met in 2013, Kouame and the Gilas got burned early on as they fell behind by as much as 17 points. However, Kouame shared that they kept their composure and stuck together through Korea’s early onslaught.
“We actually were focused. No matter what the result was going to be, we were going to stay together. As my first international game, I was surprised with how things went, how tough it was,” said Kouame. “As the game went on, we had to improvise and go with the flow.”
Kouame finished the match with 12 points laced by three triples to go with six rebounds, an assist and a blocked shot. However, he almost cost Gilas the game when he missed a free-throw that would given them a four-point lead. That eventually led to Korea making a triple that tied the game at 78-all.
“I missed the free throw so I was thinking that if we were going to lose this game, it’s going to be my fault,” said Kouame. “But coach Tab (Baldwin) gave me a quick reminder to not think about the last play. It’s the next play that matters so I focused on what was going to happen next.”
The next play, as they say, was history as Belangel banked in an improbable three-pointer to give Gilas the victory. (JNP)