Gilas Pilipinas fought valiantly but lost to China 67-78 in the championship round of the 28th FIBA Asia Olympic qualifying tournament on Saturday at the Changsha Social Worker Gymnasium in Changsha, China
It was the Philippines’ second consecutive silver medal finish since losing to Iran in the 2013 edition of the meet in Manila. Former champion Iran bagged the bronze medal after beating Japan 68-63 in the battle-for-third place.
The 6’11 naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche posted 17 points via 6-of-13 shooting in the field plus five rebounds to lead Gilas. Asia’s best point guard Jayson Castro was limited to only eight points and six rebounds while guard Terrence Romeo and Calvin Abueva finished with nine points apiece.
Though Gilas did not win the gold medal, the Philippines can still make it to the Rio Olympics next year if it dominates the World Olympic Qualifier from July 4 to 10 next year. Gilas was entitled to the incentive after making it to the FIBA Asia top four with Iran and Japan.
The other nations competing in the Olympic World Qualifier are France, Serbia, Greece, Italy, Czech Republic, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Angola, Tunisia and Senegal.
Although the Filipinos enjoyed a 5-0 lead in the first period, China initiated a highly physical game during the first half. The Chinese beefed up their lead from 23-19 in the first quarter to 46-35 by half-time.
China sustained its aggressiveness preventing Gilas to reduce the eight-point deficit.
Ailun Guo finished with 19 points and Qi Zhou had 16 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Chinese Chinese squad under coach Luming Gong.
Before losing to China, Gilas had a remarkable performance beating Hong Kong, Kuwait, Japan, Iran and India in the preliminary and second round of the tournament. Its only loss was to Palestine in the opening game.
The Philippines defeated Lebanon in the quarterfinals and Japan in the semifinals to reach the final round.
Meanwhile, Malacanang through Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda congratulated Gilas, “We congratulate our players, our coaches, and supporters, and we encourage all our countrymen to continue their support for our athletes in general, and for Gilas Pilipinas in particular, as they continue to pursue our collective basketball dream of landing a berth in the 2016 Olympics.”