July 1, 2021 Theodore P. Jurado 180 views

PH quintet sends world power Serbia scrambling before losing

ALTHOUGH it fell short, the Gilas Pilipinas was able to accomplish one of its tasks in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament– gave powerhouse Serbia a lot of headache.

“I was very proud of the effort today,” said coach Tab Baldwin after the Filipinos put up a gallant stand in a 76-83 loss to Serbians in Belgrade early Thursday morning.

“I want to play better than we played and I know that we can be better. We will play better. Certainly, the flow of the game was very competitive and we put in a great effort,” he added.

But as what Baldwin had always emphasized, this young Philippine team does not live in the accolades of yesterday as there is a new challenge that lies ahead.

In less than 24 hours, the Filipinos will take on the Dominican Republic in a do-or-die showdown.

The Philippines needs to beat Dominican Republic at 2:30 a.m. this morning to progress to the semifinals and face the winner of Italy-Puerto Rico dual meet.

Dominican Republic kept the game close with Serbia before dropping a 76-94 decision the other night.

The Filipinos briefly held a 74-73 lead at the 3:50 mark , but their stay on top lasted for only 18 seconds as the combination of Boban Marjanovic’s power and missed chances on the other allowed the Serbians to turn back the gritty Pinoys.

“A lot of people will see this as a moral victory but I’ve been in this game for such a long time, I just don’t believe in those,” said Baldwin.

The non-believers were made to believe as the young crew of Kai Sotto, RJ Abarrientos, Justine Baltazar, Jordan Heading and Carl Tamayo delivered the goods.

Four players scored in double figures with Ange Kouame leading the way with 17 points on top of seven rebounds and three blocks.

Lefty guard Jordan Heading hit 13 points aided by four triples while Sotto and Baltazar added 10 points apiece.

Both Kouame and Sotto are just making their fourth international appearance for the seniors’ team. But they will never forget this one as they grew by leaps and bounds in that 40-minute encounter.

“This is a great learning experience and I will learn from it. I try to picture it and get better for the next couple of players like him that I’m going to be against. So it is a great experience,” said Kouame.

“Like coach said, he wants me to play inside and be a presence. We keep learning. It is a learning process. I enjoy it. I think two years from now, I will be on top,” he added.

The Filipinos were not able to overcome Marjanovic, the Dallas Mavericks reserve center who dropped 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the hosts.