By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
Well is it raining in Manila?
Yes. It rained threes.
Seeking to deliver in their final FIBA World Cup game in front of their thousand Filipino fans at the Araneta Coliseum, the Gilas Pilipinas men’s national basketball team finally clinched a morale-boosting win against China, 96-75, led by Jordan Clarkson who erupted for 24 points in the third quarter last September 2, 2023.
With the game deadlocked at 48-all midway through the third quarter, the former NBA Sixth Man of the Year hosted a three-point party that kicked off Gilas’ huge 25-2 surge to suddenly take a 73-50 lead.
Clarkson was unconscious from the rainbow country and sank five straight trifectas to energize the 11,080 fans who came to witness history.
The win over China not only prevented the national team from ending their 2023 FIBA World Cup campaign without a win but also halted a near decade-long losing streak in the global hoops games.
Gilas’ last recorded win in the FIBA World Cup dated back to 2014 when they outdueled Senegal. The team was still led by Jimmy Alapag, now a retired PBA player and is currently a part of the coaching staff of the Sacramento Kings in the NBA.
Clarkson just put the entire Gilas behind his back and outscored the whole Chinese team during that fiery third quarter, capping off his last game as the country’s naturalized player with 34 big markers built from an efficient 11/18 shooting from the field.
The Filipino-American guard really saved his best for last, concluding the FIBA World Cup with his best shooting performance in two weeks.
It was a nip-and-tuck affair as China was able to weather the early storm when Gilas took an early lead in the first frame.
The Chinese hoopers led by NBA player Kyle Anderson then answered back in the second quarter, outscoring the Filipinos to take a slim one-point lead heading into the second half.
It was then all Gilas in the last two quarters as Clarkson left Araneta in awe with his lights-out performance including the whole Chinese bench.
China looked to pull off a miracle comeback in the final 10 minutes of the ball game but Clarkson’s solo rally was enough to keep them away in the final frame.
Rhenz Abando shone again in a Gilas uniform after backstopping Clarkson with 14 points and five rebounds while Dwight Ramos chipped in 11 markers in 31 minutes of action.
Despite the huge win, Gilas still failed to qualify for the Paris Olympics and will look to regroup for the upcoming 2023 Asian Games to be held in China.