Home Economy Gilas comes up short in Olympic bid, must ‘get over the hump’

Gilas comes up short in Olympic bid, must ‘get over the hump’

by
TIM CONE — FIBA

GILAS PILIPINAS got its trial by fire against elite teams from Europe and South America in pursuit of a coveted Paris Olympics berth and came up short.

But this only strengthened the Pinoy dribblers’ resolve to continue the fight and get it right in four years’ time in Los Angeles.

“Hopefully, we can make it to the Olympics. It wasn’t this year but there’s always a next time that we can give it another go,” Gilas guard Chris Newsome said in an interview on One Sports. “But again, we got so much work to be done and so much to improve on to get there.”

The Nationals bowed out of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Riga, Latvia with a 60-71 loss to No. 12 Brazil in the semifinal stage Saturday night.

The 37th-ranked Filipinos looked on the way to another major upset reminiscent of their earlier 89-80 reversal over host Latvia in pool play when they seized an 11-point lead in the second quarter. But with veteran Marcelinho Huertas taking charge and his teammates holding Justin Brownlee down, the more seasoned Brazilians turned the game around in the second half and ran away with the final-clinching victory.

Had they completed the Brazil takedown, Paris would have been one win away from coach Tim Cone and his 11-strong crew, which was actually reduced further to 10 with Kai Sotto out on a rib injury.

“It’s hard to talk about this right after you lose but it’s a growth experience for us. It’s kinda like a ‘now we know’ moment, ‘now we know we can compete’. So (it’s about) how we can get that next step in which we can get a little bit better, not just compete but win,” said Mr. Cone.

“Playing these kinds of tournaments where you are playing three games in four days, and it just gets harder and harder every game. These are things we’ll need to adjust to.”

There were positives to take away from this campaign.

Foremost was the shocker over Latvia right in their backyard, which marked the country’s first victory against a European rival since 1960. Then there was the gutsy fightback from 20 down in a narrow 94-96 defeat to No. 23 Georgia just 18 hours after the Latvia gig, and even the first half of the Brazil encounter.

At the end of the day, though, Mr. Cone and Co. measure success with goals unlocked.

“We didn’t expect to be here (OQT semis) but once we’re here, we expected to win so it’s an incredible disappointment for us,” said Mr. Cone.

“We’re not going to jump up and down and say ‘yey we did our thing and everybody was proud of us.’ Hopefully, that doesn’t get into our mindset. We need to keep pushing and moving forward, getting better.”

Moral victories may be good but simply won’t cut it for this group, which is designed to stay together until the next World Cup-Olympic cycle.

“Bottom line is we weren’t just good enough tonight (Saturday) and we got to be better. We’re trying to tell ourselves that almost is not good enough. Almost winning, almost getting there, almost that. It’s not good enough. We got to find a way to get over the hump and get there. Tonight we didn’t do that,” rued Mr. Cone. — Olmin Leyba

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