THE youthful Gilas Pilipinas squad in the ongoing FIBA Asia Cup has been playing so-so level of basketball through two games.

Gilas Pilipinas’ Carl Tamayo shoots against India’s Aryan during the FIBA Asia Cup in Jakarta, Indonesia. FIBA PHOTO
Gilas Pilipinas’ Carl Tamayo shoots against India’s Aryan during the FIBA Asia Cup in Jakarta, Indonesia. FIBA PHOTO

The Filipino dribblers, who were playing powerhouse New Zealand at press time in their final assignment in Group D, lost to Lebanon to open its group stage campaign, 85-90.

It was a defeat that most Filipino basketball fans thought should not have happened given that the Philippines (33rd) is ranked 22 notches higher than Lebanon (55th) in the FIBA world rankings.

Gilas head coach Chot Reyes said that the loss was "a great learning experience" for the Philippine team.

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"We have a very young team here, and for them to be able to experience this kind of very high-level competition, I think that's the most important thing," Reyes said.

Fortunately, Gilas bounced back big time and blasted India, 101-59, to even its slate at 1-1 and secure itself a spot in the crossover knockout stages, where the second and third seeds of Group D will figure in crossover knockout games against their counterparts from Group C.

The winners get to advance to the quarterfinals.

"No matter how difficult it is and adversity, we have a chance. For as long as we have a shot to have a chance. For as long as we have that shot, we'll take it. We'd rather take that shot then miss than not take it. Right there, bashers and haters and all, we'd rather take that shot then miss than not take it," added Reyes, who has been heavily criticized online for the Gilas' subpar showing in the first window of the 2023 World Cup Qualifiers, the Southeast Asian Games, and the ongoing FIBA Asia Cup.

It was a total decline for the Philippines compared to last year, when Tab Baldwin head-coached the team and steered the youthful team to a 3-0 run, including two wins over long-time tormentor South Korea, in the Asia Cup qualifiers and a respectable run in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Should the Philippines, third in Group D at press time, remained third which meant losing to New Zealand, it will face the eventual second placer in Group C which is either Japan (2-0) or Iran (2-0), who are also playing each other at press time.

If the Philippines, rose to second spot which meant winning over New Zealand, it will face the eventual third placer in Group C which is either Syria (0-2) or Kazakhstan (0-2) who are also playing each other at press time.

"We know that New Zealand is going to be tough but this is what we live for. The hours of extra work, lifting weights, going two to three a days, it's all for moments like this. When you are prepared to play a game no one expects you to win. All we can do is give ourselves a chance, a shot. In life, that's all we ask for, get a shot. That's why we love the game," Reyes said.