Gilas Pilipinas falls short vs South Sudan, officially gives up ticket to Paris Olympics

MANILA, Philippines – Bad luck continues to haunt Gilas Pilipinas as the nationals suffered another heartbreaking loss, this time against South Sudan, 87-68 and officially bows out of the lone Asian pass race to the 2024 Paris Olympics on August 31, 2023 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, in Cubao, Quezon City.

Gilas Pilipinas falls short vs South Sudan
Jordan Clarkson’s 24 points were not enough to save the Philippines from the hands of the taller and athletic South Sudanese. Photo Credit: FIBA

Despite the 0-3 record in the first round, Philippines’ Olympic hope is still alive via “The Best Asian Team” of the tournament in the classification phase. But just like in the elimination stage, Gilas’ journey won’t be a piece of cake as the nationals face South Sudan and China.

Good omen for Philippines as Jordan Clarkson hit his very first basket at the opener plus high-leaping Renz Abando recorded 2 quick blocks in less than a minute.

After Clarkson’s two-pointer, Gilas Pilipinas got struck with a scoring drought and let the South Sudanese, led by NBA big man Wenyan Gabriel take off with an early double-digit lead.

As South Sudan’s advantage started to balloon, AJ Edu stepped up and became an offensive go-to-guy for the home team. Edu’s scoring surge though wasn’t enough to match the Africans’ firepower and the latter owned the hosts 34-17 at the end of the first.

Second quarter was way better for the Philippines. Skipper Dwight Ramos took the helm and began to trim the humongous lead one-point-at-a-time while Kai Sotto was influential in defending against Gabriel.

Just as the Philippines gained some momentum, South Sudan retaliated with a barrage of triples to hold onto a 20-point lead with 3 minutes left in the 2nd period.

Clarkson drained a long trey to stop his team’s bleeding to end the half. Despite a decent 2nd quarter closing, the Philippines still trailed South Sudan with a whopping 51-33 advantage.

Philippines came back alive in the 3rd period as Ramos erupted from the outside and abruptly brought the lead down to just 10 with over 7 minutes remaining.

Gilas’ defense was sensational in the third. Not only Ramos dropped a handful of baskets but the young gun collected a few steals as well to add to Philippines’ rally.

The Filipino ballers’ demeanor in the 3rd quarter was simply on the other level. Rebounds kept on filling up the stats sheet and Sotto hosted a block party where a couple came from Gabriel’s shot attempts.

As the penultimate chapter wrapped up, the nationals’ found themselves down just by 10, 60-50.

Positive sign for the Philippines in the fourth as South Sudan started to miss while the hosts continued to score and downsized the margin.

Midway of the final canto, the South Sudanese finally woke up from a deep hibernation to ramp up the lead from two-possession to another double-figure.

A double whammy for the Philippines as the dying minutes of the game approached; Japan won over Venezuela which made them as the current best Asian team and South Sudan’s lead became unmanageable for Gilas.

As the final horn sounded, the Philippines officially lost the ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympic with an honorable defeat from the hands of the South Sudanese, 87-68.

Gilas Pilipinas will have one last game on Saturday, September 2, against another Asian powerhouse, China. That event however will be a no-bearing game for the Philippines but still matters for its classification in this tournament.

Maraming salamat, Gilas Pilipinas! We’re still proud of you. Laban Pilipinas, Puso!

— Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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