Gilas’ FIBA World Cup dreams shatter after falling to Italy

Chot Reyes and Gilas Pilipinas are already eliminated from FIBA World Cup title contention (FIBA)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

And just like that, the Gilas Pilipinas men’s national basketball team’s journey to the 2023 FIBA World Cup ends in another disappointment.

Boosted by thousands of Filipinos who came in all of their three first-round matches in Group A of the global hoops games, Gilas Pilipinas officially ended its bid for a podium finish after losing at the hands of Italy, 90-83, last August 29, 2023, held at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Italians stood tall in a Gilas-pro crowd, putting on a three-point shooting clinic to outscore the Filipinos and advance to the second round of the FIBA World Cup.

Gilas took command of the opening frame once again after holding on to a 23-20 advantage in the first 10 minutes of action, getting valuable minutes from the trio of Jordan Clarkson, Dwight Ramos, and RR Pogoy who led the Filipinos in the offensive department.

However, the Italians pulled off several quick adjustments to prevent Gilas from carrying their momentum in the second quarter, limiting them to just 16 points, their lowest-scoring output of the game.

Italy picked Gilas apart from the get-go and took a barrage of wide-open three-pointers that became the start of their massive offensive rally.

From a three-point deficit, Italy suddenly flipped the switch and concluded the first half with momentum on their side as they grabbed a 39-48 advantage heading into the last two quarters.

Gilas struck first in the opening minutes of the third quarter after June Mar Fajardo and Clarkson scored consecutive baskets to trim their deficit to just five points, 43-48, which led to another Araneta crowd explosion after Italy called a timeout.

Just when Gilas thought they could sustain their run again and hope to turn things around, the higher-ranked Italian squad continued to spoil its efforts after ballooning their lead back to double digits built from wide-open treys.

It was the same scenario against Angola when Gilas trailed by double digits heading into the final five minutes as they took off for a final scoring run to hang on with a seven-point deficit, 81-88, with still 1:31 remaining in the game.

Kiefer Ravena bolstered Gilas’ comeback hopes after drawing a charging foul to give them back the ball possession with 1:26 left, but back-to-back misses slowly shut the door on the PHL national squad.

Clarkson once again led Gilas in scoring after dropping 23 points, seven rebounds, and six assists backstopped by Ramos who chipped in 14 markers, three assists, and two rebounds.

Rhenz Abando, who was under-utilized in the past two games against the Dominican Republic and Angola, played his longest minutes in the first round and contributed eight big points and one rejection.

The biggest story of the game was Italy’s shooting from downtown as they sank 17 of their 41 attempts which was the biggest factor in their win.

This is the first time that Gilas didn’t get outrebounded by a team in the first round and even took a 39-35 advantage in the boards but their low shooting percentage hounded their goal of punching that second-round ticket.

Gilas’ campaign is still not over after getting relegated to the classification games to determine their final FIBA World Cup ranking.

The Filipinos will have to perform well and will most likely take on the bottom-ranked teams of Group B who also failed to advance to the second round.