There won’t be any #GilasToRio happening. After what seemed like a promising game against a strong team like France, Gilas Pilipinas failed to capitalize on their momentum and fell to the New Zealand Tall Blacks, 89-80, ending our hopes of securing one of the three wildcard spots at the 2016 Rio Olympics men’s basketball tournament.
Gilas Pilipinas looked like a team out to impress the home crowd, while New Zealand seemed dead-set on booking a ticket to the next round. While the home crowd was and has always been the Gilas’ sixth man, it wasn’t enough, as the Tall Blacks looked sharp on both ends of the floor. Simply put, a mix of defensive miscues, and a lack of both ball and player movement spelled the doom for Gilas Pilipinas.
The Philippines also couldn’t stop the dynamic duo of Tai Webster, who had 25 points and 11 rebounds, and Corey Webster, who had 23 points. The Webster duo had their way against the Gilas guards with their combination of strength and quickness, as they showed off quite the offensive display. Their play also helped open up their teammates, as guys like Isaac Fotu and Thomas Abercombie finished with 17 and 13 points respectively.
Andray Blatche led the way with 30 points, but a bunch of his production came too late. Gilas Pilipinas veterans Jayson Castro, Jeff Chan, and Junemar Fajardo finished with 13, 11, and 11 points respectively.
What went right?
- The Kraken Unleashed – Junemar Fajardo surprisingly started the game alongside Andray Blatche, but saw limited action in the first half due to foul trouble. Come the third quarter, Fajardo became more aggressive, posting up his opponents, and finishing many and-one opportunities. He finished with 11 points on 3-of-4 field goal shooting and 5-of-5 free throws.
- The energy of Gilas younger players – Despite most of them playing in their first Gilas tournament versus superior competition, the young core of Terrence Romeo, Troy Rosario and Bobby Ray Parks Jr., provided a lot energy on both ends of the floor. Tab Baldwin also trusts them a lot, despite the presence of more well-seasoned veterans. While there were a lot of times that their inexperience came into play, the way they competed in the Olympic Qualifiers makes the future of Gilas bright.
What went wrong?
- The offensive execution was terrible – Despite Tab’s cry for ball movement before the game, there wasn’t a lot of it. Other players went stagnant as they watched Andray Blatche, Jayson Castro or Terrence Romeo go for isolation plays, before scrambling to make something with the shot clock running down, which usually resulted in a turnover. While we must also credit New Zealand’s excellent defense, especially against our guards, the team simply took a ton of bad shots. This led to Gilas Pilipinas’ shooting just 40 percent from the field, while logging just 10 assists as a team the whole game.
- Defensive miscues – Gilas had their moments of defensive miscues throughout the game, which conceded a lot of open shots and open lanes from cuts to the basket by New Zealand. Oftentimes, the duo of Junemar Fajardo and Andray Blatche was too slow to catch up with the Tall Black’s guards, and Gilas had a lot of defensive mix-ups, especially on switches. Overall, the Tall Blacks shot an incredible 58 percent from the field, a testament to the lack of defensive energy by Gilas Pilipinas.
So what’s next?
With the loss to New Zealand, Gilas was ousted from their own OQT. The Olympic dream will have to wait another four years to become a reality. However, we shouldn’t get too down on this team. Over the past four years, Gilas has accomplished many things that our country should be proud of. The lessons gleaned from this tourney should make us stronger in future international competitions. We have shown that we are able to compete against the world’s best, but its also time to start working so that we may show that we belong amongst their ranks.