Gilas Pilipinas bids FIBA World Cup second round goodbye with loss to Italy

MANILA, Philippines - Gilas Pilipinas’ terrific start and late rally weren’t quite enough to upset world ranked-10 Italy as the visitors eliminated the host country 90-83 and marched onto the second round on August 29, 2023 at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City.

Gilas Pilipinas exits the first round of FIBA World Cup with a 0-3 record.
Gilas Pilipinas exits the first round of FIBA World Cup with a 0-3 record.

Couple of hours before the Philippines' game versus Italy, Gilas’ hopes of advancing to the FIBA World Cup 2023 second round ramped up as the Dominican Republic demolished Angola. All Gilas Pilipinas needed to do was to win against Italy by 13 points.

Gilas Pilipinas started on the right foot right after the opening tipoff. The home squad matched the offensive intensity of the visitors both from the inside and downtown. RR Pogoy and Dwight Ramos led the onslaught for team Philippines.

Kai Sotto and AJ Edu took care of the rim as the “Twin Towers” swatted a handful of shot attempts by the Italians.

As Philippines began to wax hot from the outside, the Italian Coach had no other options but to call a friendly ceasefire to adjust his team’s defensive approach.

What a tremendous first quarter for the Philippines, as it led Italy 23-20 and with June Mar Fajardo beating the buzzer with a fadeaway jumper.

The Italians had such a fruitful huddle during the quarter break as they immediately snatched the lead early in the second period. The Philippines on the other hand, slowed down from scoring.

A reversal of fortune for Gilas as it was Italy’s turn to drain triples and in the same manner, Coach Chot Reyes had to request a halt to talk things over.

Nothing was going right for the home team in the second. Aside from the Italians making it rain from the outside, Philippines couldn't also hit a basket plus Jordan Clarkson wasn’t in his usual self, and had a double-digit lead disadvantage.

Despite a mini scoring run by Gilas Pilipinas, Italy’s 48-39 lead at the end of the half remained significant and should cause an alarm for the former.

Gilas’ chronic illness, the turnovers, began to manifest anew in the penultimate quarter. The Italians on the other hand, capitalized on the Filipinos’ weakness to boost their advantage.

Not only that Italy made a living from the three point territory, the shaded lane became a haven for the visitors as well where they can freely cut and drop deuces.

Philippines’ defense intensified in the latter part of the third quarter. But Italy’s immaculate ball rotation and conversion were just simply unmatched and resulted in a steady double-figure, 73-60 lead.

With still plenty of minutes left in the final period, Team Italia reached the almost 20-point mark advantage and left the Filipino fans baffled and silent.

The nationals weren’t ready to give up just yet and made a scoring surge courtesy of Ramos midway of the fourth and managed to cut Italy’s margin to a dozen.

Just as the Filipinos tried to make a miraculous comeback, the Italians prevented it by all cost and showcased their three-point shooting prowess.

The odds and time were not on the Philippines’ side, but the Pinoy ballers kept on pushing the basketball hard in hopes to salvage a win. The Italians this time were in panic mode after seeing themselves up just by 7 from as high as 18.

Gilas Pilipinas’ valiant effort was truly remarkable. The Italians however, had more will to win and closed the first round of the competition with a 90-83 convincing win over the hosts and a ticket to the next round.

Gilas Pilipinas might have bowed out from contention but the nation's 2024 Olympics hope is still alive. As per rule, if no Asian squad makes it to the next round, the Olympic spot for the continent would be decided by a classification phase of the World Cup for the 17th to 32nd places. A chance for the Philippines to meet China in the classification round is also possible.

Despite the loss, Gilas Pilipinas still fought hard and didn’t go down without swinging. Mabuhay Gilas Pilipinas! Laban at Puso!

— Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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