By Karl Batungbacal

Angola def. Philippines 84-81

NOTABLE PLAYERS

Valdélicio Joaquim (20 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, 6/10 FG)

Alongside Moreira, the Angolan big man led the way for his team’s victory over the Filipinos. He did most of his damage against the smaller and less physical opponents by being on the receiving end of drop passes and simple screen and roll plays. The Philippine team’s big men couldn’t hold him, no matter how hard they tried because of his positioning and strength underneath the basket.

Yanick Moreira (12 points, 15 rebounds, 6/11 FG, 4 off. rebounds)

The 6’9 center put his talent on display against the Filipinos as he put up a double-double with ease. Individually, he had more offensive rebounds than Junemar Fajardo and Andray Blatche which is surprising as the two are known to gobble up the boards. Moreira navigated his way through the limbs of the smaller Filipinos as his energy could barely be matched underneath the basket.

Andray Blatche (23 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals)

“Kuya” Andray’s best game in the World Cup, he showed flashes of the naturalized player that immediately endeared him to the Filipinos in his 2014 FIBA World Cup stint. This was the version of Blatche that was expected to show up during the Italy and Serbia games, the dominant force that would carry most of the weight for the Filipinos, as is expected of a naturalized player. 

CJ Perez (17 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 6/13 FG)

The biggest revelation among his peers in the national team, the rookie made a three in the dying moments of the game in order to tie it all up. Perez’s conditioning held up throughout the game as he zipped around the court, with or without the ball, being the embodiment of Gilas’ battlecry of “Puso”. His effort would be for naught though, as the Filipinos would drop a very winnable game.

QUICK ANALYSIS

  • Isolation basketball, better known as “hero ball” rarely spells success on the international stage yet the Filipinos’ persistence to make plays for themselves, instead of setting up others for easy baskets, was frustrating to watch, to say the least. 
  • Ravena’s insistence on bringing down the ball slowly and then electing to create shots for himself while his teammates were waiting on his direction for a play showed why the Filipinos deserved to lose this one. It makes his inclusion in this iteration of Gilas even more questionable after his long lay-off from the game. He took a number of questionable shots all game, including a pull-up from near halfcourt late in the 4th quarter.
  • Japeth Aguilar’s sorry misses from the key deserve to be called out as these were makeable shots expected of a mobile 6’10” center. Most of those misses should’ve been easy baskets for a player of his caliber, and yet he continues to disappoint in the international stage. (His game today reminded me of Alex Len’s stint as a Phoenix Sun, sadly)
  • The 11-time AfroBasket champions showed the Filipinos why they were more than a match for the island nation with their quickness and willingness to pass the ball. Falling into an early deficit, Angola was able to weather the storm and keep the Philippines at bay throughout most of the game. Carlos Morais’ notoriety was more than enough to grab the Philippine defense’s attention in some crucial parts of the game.
  • “Sayang yung pagkakataon, pero maganda naman pinakita namin, pero mas  kailangan namin ‘yung panalo,” said CJ Perez after the game. One of the few bright spots on this Philippine team, other than Robert Bolick, Perez looks to be the heir apparent to Jayson Castro as the “takeover” guard that this team sorely needs. Although he still has to brush up his game all-around, the potential is there and it’s interesting to see how far he’ll develop by the 2023 World Cup.
  • Calling Blatche’s performance in the group stage of this World Cup as “underwhelming” is an understatement. He showed up to the team clearly looking out of basketball shape which raised a red flag for some observers. By the 2023 World Cup, Blatche will have already been 37 years old. It’s probably time for the Philippines’ basketball program to part ways with “Kuya Andray”; sooner rather than later.
  • For a national team whose calling card since their inclusion (and bronze medal finish) in the 1954 FIBA World Cup is perimeter shooting, finishing 10/46 from the three-point line  is embarrassing. Albeit there were no three-pointers then, history showed that the Philippines, led by the legends Lauro Mumar and Caloy Loyzaga, was a phenomenal perimeter-based shooting team whose quick passes confused the heck out of the competition while dazzling the crowd at the same time.