Gilas Pilipinas will conclude their grueling FIBA World Cup campaign with a match against a continental rival, China. And it will do so out of, well, pride. It will also avoid a finish in the bottom five in this tournament, which would end any hopes of qualifying for the quadrennial tournament in France via the Olympic Qualifiers.
The good news for the Gilas is that China is on the upswing, having lost all its group-stage games by an average of 26.6 points. Gilas lost every game in the group phase but was competitive in every single one, with an opportunity to win in the final quarter.
Thursday, the Chinese finally defeated Angola with a ferocious second half and a suffocating defensive zone to enter the win column. Conversely, Gilas maintained its downward trend, playing its worst game of the tournament against South Sudan in a must-win match.
The loss to South Sudan has deflated the national team, which is the crux of the matter.
We are in a dire state. We are at a loss for words. After the loss to South Sudan, Gilas head coach Chot Reyes acknowledged that the team’s morale was extremely low. “It is our responsibility to prepare everyone for the next game, which must begin with our mental and emotional state.”
Gilas must prepare in 48 hours, and seeing the players appear determined to win the tournament is encouraging.
“Today is our last contest. After the South Sudan encounter, big man AJ Edu told the media, “We’ve got to give it everything we’ve got to get that win.” “We’re just going to fight, show some guts, and try to conquer China.”
Gilas also possesses the necessary components for achieving this victory. Jordan Clarkson has performed as expected, whereas Dwight Ramos has proved to be a superstar. The team may have also unleashed a defensive monster in Rhenz Abando, whose relentless defense earned praise in South Sudan. Gilas’ early fourth-quarter surge against South Sudan even featured Edu and Kai Sotto connecting on an alley-oop.
Nevertheless, China will be difficult to defeat. Gilas has accomplished this feat previously, most recently in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup. Saturday’s performance is a certainty.