• President praises Gilas heart, bravery

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     Croatia’s center Ante Tomic (left) vies with Philippines’ center June Mar Fajardo during the 2014 FIBA World basketball championships Group B match at the Palacio Municipal de Deportes in Sevilla, Spain.  AFP PHOT

    Croatia’s center Ante Tomic (left) vies with Philippines’ center June Mar Fajardo during the 2014 FIBA World basketball championships Group B match at the Palacio Municipal de Deportes in Sevilla, Spain. AFP PHOT

    President Benigno Aquino 3rd praised the national basketball team Gilas Pilipinas for its “heart and bravery” after it almost pulled off a major upset against Croatia in the FIBA World Cup in Spain.

    The Philippine team lost, 81-78, but not after giving the highly favored Croats a tough fight and pushing the game into overtime.

    “The President is one with the entire nation in sending our warmest greetings for the skill and determination shown by our Gilas Pilipinas players in their fight against Croatia,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a radio interview on Sunday.

    “Despite facing a heavy challenge, our Philippine team fought to the end and earned praises in the world of basketball,” Coloma said.

    He noted that the President had said earlier that Gilas’ stint in the FIBA World Cup—the nation’s first appearance in 38 years—“was an opportunity to show the talent of the Filipino people and our culture of not giving up as a nation.”

    He said Aquino also stressed the players’ heart, ambition, and determination to succeed will power Gilas in its future games.

    “To our Gilas Pilipinas players, including their coaching staff, the Filipino nation is behind you, one in praying for your succeeding battles against some of the best basketball players in the world. We will continue to shout our battlecry: ‘Laban Pilipinas! Puso!’” Coloma said.

    Gilas goes up against European powerhouse Greece Sunday night at the Palacio Municipal de Desportes San Pablo in Seville, Spain.

    Game time is set at 8 p.m. which is 2 a.m. Monday in Manila.

    Naturalized player Andray Blatche and skipper Jimmy Alapag said the heartbreaking setback to Croatia at least boosted the team’s confidence.

    “Coming in here, a lot of people doubted us and saw us as an easy match. Now, one thing is sure about it is that we are confident now. We know now that we belong here and we can keep our heads up,” said the former Brooklyn Nets center Blatche, who finished with 28 points on top of 12 rebounds against a squad laden with his fellow NBA veterans.

    Blatche said he really believes that advancing into the knockout stage of the 14-day tournament is not a remote possibility, using their game against world no. 16 Croatia as the gauge.

    “A lot of teams woke up and realized what kind of a team we are.  For me, I will take the same kind of intensity (in the next games). I will come over with a lot of heart and see how it goes,” added Blatche.

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