Italy just too good for Gilas
It was a huge letdown instead of a massive upset as Gilas Pilipinas took a beating to remember from world No. 13 Italy and booted the Filipinos out of the 2019 Fiba World Cup right in their opening game at Foshan International Sports and Cultural Arena Saturday.
With President Duterte taking a break from his China visit to watch the game from a skybox after earlier exhorting the Filipinos to give their all in a prematch huddle, the Italians more than upheld what the Filipino chief executive had earlier predicted was a futile exercise with a 108-62 victory.
The Azzuris, the Olympic Games’ basketball runner-up in 1980 and 2004, overwhelmed the Filipinos with sizzling three-point shooting and a tight defense that produced 23 turnovers to match the 46-point rout of top title contender Serbia earlier posted in the other Group D game at the expense of African champion Angola, 105-59.
The Filipinos had hoped to give the Italians, who boast three NBA veterans, a big fight with their quartercourt sniping but it was the Azzuris who delivered from downtown with 15 triples, six of them in the first quarter where they raced to a 37-8 lead. They took the half at 62-24 and stormed ahead by 46 as early as the end of the third period, 85-39.
Kiefer Ravena, back from an 18-month Fiba suspension for taking a banned substance, ended the three-point drought of Gilas early in the last period before rookies CJ Perez and Robert Bolick Jr. added back-to-back threes after Italy had taken the game’s biggest lead at 105-52.
Gilas tries to summon what’s left of its fighting spirit when it tangles with Serbia today in a game already conceded to the team that lost to the United States in the 2014 World Cup final, 129-92, in Spain.
Angola and Gilas then clash on Wednesday before both teams finish their campaign in the losers’ bracket.
Gilas wound up 21st in a field of 24 in the last World Cup mainly due to a lone win—81-79, in overtime, over Senegal. The Filipinos dropped four games under the old qualifying format but none was as devastating as the loss to Italy.
In 2014, Gilas lost to Croatia, 81-78; Argentina, 85-81; Puerto Rico, 77-73 and Greece 92-80.