Edu Edu: Losing effort for Gilas Pilipinas. FiBA photo

Tough loss for Gilas

August 5, 2023 Robert Andaya 436 views

ALMOST but not enough for Gilas Pilipinas.

The Philippines put up a brave stand before losing to world No. 37 Senegal, 64-72, in the Heyuan WUS International Basketball Tournament in Guandong, China late Friday.

Seeking a fitting follow-up to their inspiring 67-56 victory over Iran last Thursday, the Filipinos kept pace with the African team for most part of the game and even took a 57-56 lead on back-to-back baskets by AJ Edu.

But after Chris Newsome and June Mar Fajardo nailed two free throws each to make it 61-63, Senegal went on a 7-0 run capped by a huge three-pointer to turn the game around, 70-61, with two minutes remaining.

Fajardo was able to cut the deficit to seven points, 63-70 but Senegal wisely held on to victory.

Fajardo carried the fight for the Chot Reyes-mentored Filipinos with 14 points.

Dwight Ramos and CJ Perez added 11 points apiece.

Actually, the Filipinos had a lethargic start against Senegal.

But like in their game against the Iranians, the Filipinos settled down in the second quarter behind a pressing defense that forced the Senegalese to seven turnovers and led to five steals.

The Filipinos went on to outscore the opposition, 15-10, to take a slim 34-32 lead highlighted by a two-handed dunk by Jamie Malonzo from a perfect pass by Edu.

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas-supported Filipinos enjoyed their biggest lead of the game at 45-40 in the third period.

Senegal, however, immediately regained their composure and countered with a decisive 10-0 blast — including two three-pointers — for a 50-45 advantage.

Senegal, which did not qualify for the FIBA World Cup but is preparing for the FIBA pre-Olympic qualifying tournament, led by a slim 35-34 margin at halftime following a three-point play just before the buzzer.

The Filipinos will take a break on Saturday before resuming their campaign on Sunday in a rematch against Senegal.

The Philippines will meet Iran the following day to conclude its campaign in the three-team pocket tournament serving as part of their preparations for the FIBA World Cup 2023.

After the Heyuan tournament, the Filipinos are also lined up for a pair of friendlies against Montenegro and Mexico.

The 2023 FIBA World Cup will formally kick off on Aug. 25 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan with a doubleheader pitting Italy against Angola and Philippines against Dominican Republic.