JAPAN chalked up another inspiring victory, this time against Venezuela, 86-77
China and Lebanon both ended a three-game losing skid in style, beating Angola, 83-76, and Ivory Coast, 94-84, respectively.
And host Philippines?
The Jordan Clarkson-led Philippines went down to its fourth straight setback, 68-87, to African team South Sudan in the FIBA World Cup 2023 classification round at the Araneta Coliseum.
The loss officially slammed the door on the Filipinos’ bid to clinch an outright ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympics as Asia’s top team in the 32-nation competition.
With the victories of Japan, China and Lebanon on Thursday, there’s no way the Filipinos can go to Paris.
Former NBA “Sixth Man of the Year” awardee Clarkson topscored for the Filipinos for the fourth straight game with 24 points, including four three-pointers, in 36 minutes.
But the 6-5 Filipino-American of the Utah Jazz struggled with 9-of-23 shooting from the floor for 39 percent against Sudan’s pesky defense.
Fan favorite Dwight Ramos added 20 points and 12 rebounds while EJ Edu contributed 12 points and 14 rebounds in the losing effort.
NBA prospect Kai Sotto also played well with eight points, including a highlight alley-oop dunk during the Filipinos’ furious run in the fourth quarter.
But six-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo and fellow World Cup veteran Japeth Aguilar and Barangay Ginebra superstar Scottie Thompson went scoreless in very, very limited time on the playing court.
Fajardo saw action for only eight minutes, Aguilar was fielded in for only two minutes and Thompson had only seven minutes of playing time.
San Miguel Beer star CJ Perez was also used sparingly in only three minutes.
Expectedly, NBA star Carlik Jones of the Chicago Bulls was the biggest thorn on the Filipinos’ side.
The 6-0 American-Sudanese guard finished with a near triple double of 17 points, a game-best 14 assists and nine rebounds. No player in FIBA World Cup history has ever posted a triple double.
Former Los Angeles Lakers mainstay Wenyen Gabriel also had a double double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes was clearly a very disappointed man.
“We played our worst game when it counted the most. We couldn’t make our shots,” said Reyes, referring to the Filipinos’ dismal 35.1 perent field goal shooting on 26-of-74.
“We spent too much energy trying to claw back. We didn’t have enough to finish it. It’s unfortunate that this is the time for us to shoot below 40 percent from the field.”
Reyes also cited the Filipinos’ 31.2 percent from the three-point area (10 of 32), and 46 percent from the free throw line (6 -of-13).
Despite playing against Serbia the day before, South Sudan was clearly the more aggressive team right from the start.
The NBA veteran Luol Deng-managed South Sudanese took the Filipinos by surprise to open an early 16-3 advantage and carry a commanding 34-17 lead after only the first period.
The lead grew to 51-30 on a step-back three-point shot by Majok Deng with under a minute left in the second period before Clarkson countered with a triple of his own to make it 51-33 at halftime.
The closest the Filipinos could get from there was 56-60 following an alley-opp dunk by Sotto off an assist by Edu. early in the fourth quarter.
But Gabriel made a layup and Deng added a dunk of his own to push the lead back to eight, 64-56, with 6:42 remaining.
A 3-pointer by Nuni Omot made it 72-61 with 4:36 remaining.
It was all over but the shouting from there.
The Philippines will wrap up its World Cup campaign against China also at the Big Dome on Saturday, hoping to avoid another winless campaign as host nation for the second time since 1978.
South Sudan (87)– Jones 17, Deng 13, Omot 13, Shayok 12, Gabriel 11, Kuany 8, Kacuol 8, Acuoth 3, Dech 2, Maluach 0.
Philippines (68) — Clarkson 24, Ramos 20, Edu 12, Sotto 8, Malonzo 4, Abando 0, Aguilar 0, Fajardo 0, Perez 0, Ravena 0, Thompson 0, Pogoy 0.
Quarterscores: 34-17, 51-33, 60-50, 87-68.