Gilas Pilipinas put up a brave fight in front of their countrymen but suffered an 84-93 loss to France on Tuesday in the second game of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Playmaker Nando de Colo, a former San Antonio Spurs, notched 27 points, six rebounds and three steals while National Basketball Association veteran guard Tony Parker contributed 21 points, six assists and five rebounds.
“We were expecting a big game. Philippines played a really high-level game tonight. Real challenge to play against,” France’s head coach Vincent Collet told reporters during the postgame news conference. “They played tough against us.”
Naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche posted 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting in the field plus eight rebounds while Terrence Romeo and Jayson Castro scored 19 and 14 points, respectively for Gilas.
Jeff Chan shot three triples for nine points also for the Philippines.
“It was a pretty solid performance for Gilas,” said Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin. “But it stings a little bit because we proved that we have a chance in this game. The real strength of the French team is their guards [Parker and de Colo].”
Gilas gave the no. 5 in the world French national team a tough time early in the game establishing a 33-22 lead after the first frame. Blatche scored 14 points and grabbed four rebounds in the first half, while Jayson Castro and Terrence Romeo added nine and eight points, respectively.
But France came back stronger in the second period outscoring the Filipinos 23-13 resulting in a 45-43 advantage at halftime. Parker had 12 points helping France grab the lead during that period.
France, riding on the hot shooting of de Colo and Parker, beefed up their advantage to 77-66 entering the fourth period. Gilas attempted to catch up in the fourth quarter narrowing the gap, 81-85, with only two minutes left remaining in the game but the French did not relent on their attacks en route to their first victory in the OQT.
Gilas must win its 9 p.m. match against New Zealand to keep its Rio hope alive. Canada will take on Senegal in the first game at 6:30 p.m. If Canada wins, it will automatically secure a semifinals slot with 2-0 win-loss record.
The French team will take a break today and will face New Zealand on Thursday.