IN A HISTORIC juncture, 2023 FIBA World Cup host Philippines failed to secure a dub in the group stage and kept their win sheet spotless after three hard fought matches against the national teams of Dominican Republic, Italy, and Angola.
A mixture of young and experienced players represented Gilas in the FIBA World Cup campaign which also headlined Filipino-American NBA veteran and former Sixth Man of the Year winner Jordan Clarkson, alongside steady locals Dwight Ramos, June Mar Fajardo, and reliable youngster in AJ Edu. Veteran mentor Chot Reyes led the national team in the world’s most prestigious basketball tourney.
Philippines vs. Dominican Republic (81-87)
A four-quarter thriller took place between Gilas and the Dominican Republic, with Karl Anthony Towns, who led the Carribean nation, taming down the Philippines’ defensive night after consistently slashing through the basket destroying the Gilas’ zone defense.
A miscommunication from the defensive end left the corner three spot open, widening the margin in favor of the Dominican Republic which also sealed their opening night win.
Philippines vs. Italy (83-90)
For this game, the Europeans’ modern plays boxed Gilas in. The positionless play of Italy’s Gil Azzurri was an unsolved mystery for Gilas’ defense all night long, while Jordan Clarkson’s Utah Jazz teammate, Simone Fontecchio, led the blues in routing Gilas for the victory.
However, the game did show glimmers of hope at certain points, as a third quarter barrage from Dwight Ramos and Clarkson gave the Gilas men a breather for the fans in attendance, but it was not enough to come up with a victory.
Philippines VS. Angola (70-80)
In this game, force overshadowed finesse, and a complete team effort secured Angola’s Bright Stars their first victory in the world stage.
After controlling the boards and dimes all night long, the Angolan team ruined the revelation night of Gilas’ rising star, Rhenz Abando, the Ilocano all-around player, who showed up for the team after having limited appearances in their first two games.
Moreover, Atlanta Hawks center Bruno Fernando carried the team all evening and gave the host nation its biggest losing margin in the World Cup, 70-80, in favor of the African nation.
Classification round: Philippines vs. China (96-75)
Despite failing to advance in the second round of the tournament, Gilas Pilipinas won against fellow Asian powerhouse, China, in the classification round routing the Dragons behind Jordan Clarkson’s statement game dropping a tournament high 34 points which concluded the Philippines National Men’s Basketball Team campaign in the FIBA World Cup, ultimately placing second amongst the Asian teams and 24th in the world.
(with Mauri Fernandez)