Gilas Pilipinas bows to Serbia in close loss
MANILA, Philippines–Gilas Pilipinas gave Serbia all it could handle but the host managed to escape an upset and secured a close 83-76 victory in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying tournament in Belgrade early Thursday.
Despite missing its best player Dwight Ramos, the Filipinos still managed to push the Serbians–led by NBA center Boban Marjanović and star forward Ognjen Dobric–to their limit, even taking the lead 74-73 with under four minutes to play.
But the Serbians came to their senses just in time, closing the game on a decisive 10-2 run to advance to the semifinals of the qualifiers.
“At some point, we were relaxed. We played irresponsibly. That resulted in us playing an uncertain ending. We must not allow that,” Serbia skipper Milos Teodosic admitted after the game.
Marjanovic led Serbia with 25 points and 11 rebounds while Dobric had 16 points built on four triples.
It was an admirable performance for the young Filipino squad–made up of amateur standouts–roaring back from 16 points down to give Serbia a scare down the stretch.
But Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin refuses to bask in the thought of a moral victory.
“A lot of people will look at this as some sort of moral victory. I’ve been in this game for such a long time and I just don’t believe in those,” said Baldwin.
Naturalized center Angelo Koaume paced the Philippines with 17 points and seven rebounds while Jordan Heading added 13 points.
Kai Sotto had 10 points and five rebounds even as RJ Abarrientos, who gave Gilas its lone lead of the day, pitched in nine points.
Next up for Gilas Pilipinas is Dominican Republic early Friday (Manila time).