Chot Reyes regrets ‘downer’ Gilas loss in front of Fiba World Cup record crowd
BOCAUE — Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes was disappointed that the team wasn’t able to match the country’s record-breaking crowd with a win over the Dominican Republic and Karl-Anthony Towns in their opening game Friday at at Philippine Arena in Bulacan.
A new record of 38, 115 fans attended the Fiba World Cup and Reyes rued not being able to deliver a win, which would’ve been a great gift after the Philippines surpassed the 1994 gold medal match between the USA and Russia in Toronto witnessed by 32,616 spectators.
“Such a downer, a letdown that we could have pulled it out. It could have been a great gift to the record number of people who came out,” Reyes said in the postgame press conference after the 87-81 loss.
The Gilas coach, who made his second World Cup appearance after steering the national team back to the global competition nine years ago, remained proud of his wards’ grit and composure against the three-time NBA All-Star Towns and the Dominicans.
But the Philippines fell short with Jordan Clarkson fouling out in the final three minutes of the game.
“I really love the fight of our players. They competed hard. Unfortunate with the disqualification of Jordan, really a big blow for us,” Reyes said. “The players fought hard. They really really fought hard.
Late lead not surprising
Reyes was hardly surprised by Gilas leading the Dominican Republic in the game and early in the fourth 72-69 after Clarkson’s two made free throws, believing his squad has what it takes to go up against World Cup-caliber teams.
“We actually told the players in the pre-game, ‘Don’t be surprised if you get a lead in the fourth because that’s how prepared we were and how much I believe in my players and the team,’” the Gilas coach said. “We were right there, one break, one bounce here or there, one call here or there might have been a different story. But like I said, very strong team, with two NBA players [including] an NBA All-Star. It was very unfortunate we came up short.”
The seasoned coach lamented their 19 turnovers and getting outrebounded by the Dominicans, 43-35. The Filipinos also gave up 28 fouls that led to the visitors’ 23-of-34 shooting from the free throw line.
“We shot the ball well, we shot the ball better than Dominican but they just took a lot more attempts than we did. The story was our 19 turnovers and we gave up 17 offensive rebounds,” he said as Gilas shot 27-of-56 from the field.
But Reyes stressed that they can’t worry about their first game loss, needing to shift their focus against Angola, which lost to Italy, 81-67, in their crucial match on Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“It’s a different team but Angola pressures the ball just as much as the Dominican Republic did. Definitely, we have to make some adjustments in our offense because today we had 19 turnovers and that was big,” he said. “We have to make sure that we’re able to cope with the defensive pressure of Angola.”