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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Monumental Scare

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TALK about pride and Gilas Pilipinas got plenty of it after giving mighty Serbia a scare in a 76-83 loss at dawn on Thursday when most of the basketball-crazy Filipino fans were in bed unaware of a battle that was almost won in Serbia.

“I was very proud of the effort. I wanted to play better than we played, and I know we can play better,” Gilas head coach Tab Baldwin said in the post-game press conference for the  International Basketball Federation Olympic Qualifying Tournament at the  Aleksandar Nikolic Hall in Belgrade.

“Certainly the flow of the game was very competitive although we put in a great effort,” Baldwin said. “I thought we answered most of the questions asked by Serbia today.”

Serbia is the Rio 2016 Olympics silver medalist behind the US and is currently perched at No. 5 in the world. The Philippines, on the other hand, was expected to suffer a blowout for being ranked 26 rungs below the Serbians at No. 31

But Gilas, a team composed of young collegiate stars with no professional support from the Philippines Basketball Association, made heads turn in the global basketball community with a gallant stand against one of the strongest favorites to complete the four remaining men’s basketball slots in the Tokyo Olympics,.

Gilas erased a 40-56 deficit late in the third period and took a 74-73 cushion with 3:50 to go on RJ Abarrientos’s layup.

But it certainly pays to have a 7-foot-4 National Basketball Association (NBA) center around as Boban Marjanovic nailed 10 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and grabbed 10 rebounds in the crucial stretch to put off the Filipinos’ onslaught.

Naturalized 6-foot-11 Ange Kouame stood his ground against the taller Marjanovic and Serbia’s other big men by piling up 17 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and two assists.

Jordan Heading was spectacular with 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting beyond the three-point zone, while Justine Baltazar added 10 points and four rebounds.

Kai Sotto had 10 points, five rebounds, two steals and two assists and at 19 and lanky at 7-foot-4, showed signs of eventually fulfilling his NBA dream Abarrientos, who contributed nine points, had a great showdown with former NBA player Milos Teodosic, who compiled 13 points and six assists for Serbia.

The Gilas cadets made up for a stinging 67-126 loss a national team coached by Yeng Guiao absorbed in the 2019 Fiba World Cup in Foshan, China.

“Sometimes with a young and developing team, we can be a bit bigger than we are, Baldwin said. “But that’s what the learning process is all about.”

The Philippines battles the Dominican Republic (0-1 win-loss) also at 2:30 a.m. on Friday hoping for a win that would send them to the semifinals alongside Serbian (2-0). Serbia blasted the Dominican Republic, 94-76, earlier in Group A.

Image courtesy of fiba.basketball

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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