Gilas Pilipinas Rio 2016 Hopes Dashed by New Zealand

Much to the chagrin of their fans, Gilas Pilipinas (or the Philippine men’s national basketball team for those not familiar) became the first country to be eliminate from Olympic contention in the FIBA Manila Olympic Qualifying Tournament. The team lost to New Zealand on Wednesday, July 6th in a game held at the Mall of Asia Arena. The team had lost earlier in the tournament to the Tony Parker led French National Team. Despite the two losses, the team took a number of compliments on the much improved level of play and competitiveness the players demonstrated during the tournament.

Gilas Pilipinas Team

What Positives can Gilas Pilipinas take from the Tournament?

Despite not earning a win in the tournament, both the team’s head coach, Tab Baldwin, and fans can take stock in a number of positives from the games played. Besides having the honor to play in front of their hometown fans in Manila, all of the players showed that Philippine men’s basketball is no longer content to be an afterthought when it comes to international competition. The 0-2 record just doesn’t tell the story of how the team has really upped their game as compared to International competition, and for once the team was able to enter each game with an expectation to win. Baldwin was quoted as saying:
“We competed well in this tournament, but we don’t expect to come to big tournaments and to compete. We expect to come and get some wins, and progress, especially when we’re at home. So we have to sit back, we have to analyze why that didn’t happen and we have to try and fix it,” after the match.

New Zealand Game Summary

During the matchup with New Zealand, the Philippine team ran into a big size disadvantage with their competitor. The team matched size with a small-ball attack relying on the three pointer which was generally successful with the team hitting 11 of 27 three pointers during the game 941 percent). Naturalized big man, Andray Blatche did help out on the inside immensely during the game delivering 30 points, seven boards, and hit four three pointers during the game. Other standout players for the team on the offensive end included point guards Jayson Castro, with 13 points and 3-of-5 three-point shooting, and Jeffrei Chan (11, 2-of-4 from three).

The bigger guards for the New Zealand national team turned out to be the difference in the game; however, as they consistently were able to drive to the rim and score. The New Zealand team was led by Tai Webster who scored 25 points with 11 boards and his older brother Corey who scored 23 points. Despite being down by 13 points in the third quarter, The Philippine team was about to bounce back and get to within two points at one point in the fourth quarter until New Zealand would go on to establish their lead for good. New Zealand will now move on to compete with the remaining four teams in the tournament to attempt to earn a berth in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

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