Gilas Pilipinas ended their resilient FIBA Asia Cup campaign in a heartbreaking loss last Saturday against host team China, 78-67, settling for their second straight silver medal in the competition.
The Chinese squad meanwhile took the gold medal and secured a ticket to the 2016 Rio Olympics as they successfully kept the Philippine national team at bay throughout the four quarters.
China made the most out of their size advantage, easily rotating the ball and finding open spots as they sank nine three pointers. Gilas was not able to keep up as they failed to get in their offensive rhythm.
Still, the Filipino team earned the praise and gratitude of their countrymen who took to social media their relentless support.
“This group deserves the respect of the country. They may not have won the gold medal, but they are winners as people,” Gilas head coach Tab Baldwin said in an Inquirer.net report.
“We just never got into an offensive flow, but we played good defense in the second half,” he added.
Gilas’ usual offensive guns settled for single-digit scoring each: Calvin Abueva and Terrance Romeo had nine points each, while Jayson Castro had only eight on a very cold 3-for14 shooting. Only Andray Blatche finished with a double digit output for the Philippine team with 17 points plus five rebounds.
Chinese guard Ailin Duo led his team with 19 points while seven-foot-one center Qi Zhuo had 16 markers. Seven-foot Yi Jianlian, who once played for the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA, contributed 11 points.
Malacanang immediately extended its congratulations to Gilas right after the game.
“We congratulate our players, our coaches, and supporters, and we encourage all our countrymen to continue their support for our athletes in general, and for Gilas Pilipinas in particular, as they continue to pursue our collective basketball dream of landing a berth in the 2016 Olympics,” Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a report.
After getting into a good start and leading China 15-10, the Philippine team failed to make any reply to the 12-point run by the Chinese who eventually took control of the rest of the game.
The Chinese squad stretched their lead in the second period with their impeccable shooting, going into the half 46-35 against Gilas.
In the third quarter, Blatche and Castro tried to close in the gap, but could not do so past the five-point margin. Li Gen’s back-to-back three pointers kept Gilas at bay to give China a 60-44 lead.
Going into the fourth period, China was up by 10 points, 60-50.
China continued their offensive siege in opening the final period while Gilas failed to make an answer only after three minutes. Ding Yenyuhang’s triple made it 70-54 with only 5:31 left in the game.
Halfway through the final quarter, it was clear that the zealous Chinese crowd would be celebrating at the end for their team’s championship.
China’s dirty tricks?
Prior to the game, the Philippine team had to face delays due to what was alleged by fans as China’s dirty tricks.
Gilas’ travel to the stadium was delayed after their electric bus failed to arrive on time due to lack of charge.
“Now it has begun. Our Gilas electric bus delayed. Failed to charge daw. Gilas arrival at stadium delayed. Less time for warm up,” Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manny V. Pangilinan said on Twitter.
Arriving at the stadium, the team was not able to their practice shots immediately as Chinese utility men were fixing the ring on their side, denying them of precious practice time.
Filipino fans were also mad at the questionable calls and non-calls by the referees throughout the game, venting out their anger on Twitter and alleging that the game was “cooked” in favor of China.
Despite the loss, Gilas will still have the final chance to earn a slot at the Rio 2016 by securing the top spot in one of the 3 Olympic Qualifying Tournaments that will commence in July 2016, just a month before the Olympic Men’s Basketball tourney.
The Olympic Qualifying Tournaments will pit 18 national teams from different FIBA regional events.
The last time when the Philippine team was able to compete in the Olympics basketball tournament was in 1972 in Munich, Germany.