As Italy crushes Gilas second-round hopes, road to Olympics now steeper | Inquirer Sports

As Italy crushes Gilas second-round hopes, road to Olympics now steeper

/ 04:30 AM August 30, 2023

Gilas Pilipinas Italy Fiba World Cup

Gilas Pilipinas after its game against Italy in the Fiba World Cup. -MARLO CUETO/

The Dominican Republic held the door open ever so slightly for Gilas Pilipinas to advance to the next round on Tuesday.

Italy slammed it shut.


This was how the Fiba World Cup second-round hopes ended for the Philippines: A 90-83 defeat to world No. 10 Italy that relegated the squad to the qualification phase and further dimmed the Filipinos’ chances of making it to the 2024 Paris Olympics.


“It was tough. We competed hard and tried to figure things out on the go,” said Jordan Clarkson, who led the Philippines with 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

A furious rally in the stretch ended up a hollow fight: Italy outscored the Philippines in the middle periods to take a 13-point lead into the fourth—exactly the margin of victory Gilas needed to advance to the next round and lead the race among Asian teams for an outright ticket to the Summer Games.

“We did what we had to do. It was not easy,” said guard Marco Spissu, who had 13 points and nine assists for the Italians.

A longtime rival program leads that Olympic race now after a dramatic victory last Sunday.

Japan’s rally from 18 down to beat Finland, 98-88, allowed the Akatsuki to ease out front of the race for that Asian ticket to Paris.“[We’re] trying to create a new standard here for Japan basketball and this is definitely a big step in the right direction,” head coach Thomas Hovasse said shortly after the victory.


The Japanese lost to Australia, 109-89, also on Tuesday, meaning all Asian teams will likely slide to the classification round. After taking a three-point lead at the end of the first quarter, the Filipinos failed to keep up with the Italian onslaught in the second and third periods. The loss came after dropping two winnable games against the Dominican Republic and Angola.

Simone Fontecchio Italy World Cup

Italy’s main man Simone Fontecchio in the Fiba World Cup. –MARLO CUETO/

Gilas now needs to win its two matches in the classification phase to have a shot at an outright Olympic spot. Otherwise, it will have to cut a path to the glitzy French capital by way of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT). And even that isn’t a free pass.

Gilas, who finished dead last in the previous World Cup held in China, needs to avoid finishing in the bottom five of this year’s tournament to compete for the final four berths that will be dangled in the OQT.

But the OQT will be participated in also by squads from powerhouse continents that will fail to clinch outright berths to the Olympics via this World Cup, making that road to Paris a bit trickier. The Dominican Republic breathed hope into the Philippines campaign on Tuesday with a 75-67 victory over Angola fueled by a strong fourth quarter.

“[We’re] just super excited to get the dub. Super excited to make the country proud. I know a lot of people didn’t expect us to do this but we expected ourselves to do it so I’m very happy that we get to shock the world and show the world what we’ve been working on,” said NBA star Karl-Anthony Towns, who had eight points and two rebounds.

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And the Filipinos did make the most of that opportunity opened by the Dominicans by jumping out to a 23-20 lead at the end of the first period.

But Italy struck hard in the second quarter to take control of the match. The Europeans led by as many as 18 before a late run fueled by Clarkson narrowed the gap.“I gave all I could out of respect for the country,” Clarkson, a Utah Jazz star in the NBA, said.

TAGS: Fiba World Cup, Gilas Pilipinas

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