‘Gilas ang inilibing nang buhay’

September 04, 2019

Sorry, Mr. President. You missed it this time.

Against Italy, President Duterte had predicted that there was no way Gilas Pilipinas could beat the tall, hefty Azzuri.

Against Angola, the President had guessed the Filipinos would bury the Africans six feet under.

“Angola, ililibing nang buhay,” Mr. Duterte told a group of businessmen who paid a courtesy call several weeks ago at the Palace.

Well, he was right in his first guess, but was wrong in the second.

On an afternoon to forget in beautiful Foshan, China, the Gilas went down in shameful defeat for the third straight game, this time at the hands of Angola, 84-81, in a contest that needed an extra five minutes to decide on Wednesday in the 2019 Fiba World Cup.

Finally displaying some fight after two forgettable losses to Serbia (126-62) and Italy (108-62), the Filipinos rallied from the depth of an 11-point deficit in the second half, but couldn’t get the job done both in the final moments of regulation and in the extra period.

Kiefer Ravena heaved a desperation shot that bounced off the rim at the overtime buzzer, touching off a wild celebration among the Angolan players and their fans and sending the Filipinos and their followers in a state of disbelief.

“The first two games were lopsided, this one we had a chance to win,” said an emotional Yeng Guiao when asked what was more painful of the three  losses during the post-game conference.

“Tough win. They (Filipinos) also had a chance to take it. I guess we’re luckier,” said Angolan coach Will Voigt, grinning  as he entered the interview room. “We knew it’s going to be close one, and I’m right.”

In a moment to remember, rookie CJ Perez  saved the Filipinos from losing in regulation play by sinking a three-point from the right flank with barely a couple of seconds remaining as he continued his fine performance in his rookie year as a national player. He finished with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists.

So the Filipinos ended their Group D elimination round campaign winless, a letdown for a team which left for this biggest basketball showpiece full of promise to win at least one game in their side of eliminations.

Instead, the Filipinos lost to a team which many, led by their president, had thought would be buried alive, to the disappointment of a big crowd of OFWs who shouted in glee, stomped their feet and cheered like crazy everytime Gilas scored.

In the end, there was nothing to cheer for.

Naturalized player Andray Blatche played his finest game in the tournament by torching the Angolans with 23 points, 12 rebounds and four steals, but this was not enough to lift the Filipinos past the gritty, brave Africans.
Just like in its first two games, the Filipinos shot awfully, as they went a combined 10-of-46 in the game for a horrible 20 percent norm.

But after going 3-for-33 on threes through three-fourths of the way and 0-of-9 in the third alone, they suddenly came alive in the final quarter and made five of 10 to wipe away an 11-point second-half lead by the Angolans for their biggest run in the match.

The scores

Angola (84) – Joaquim 20, Moore 12, Moreira 12, Morais 11, Conceicao 10, Paulo 6. Domingos 5, Goncalves 5, Antonio 3, Mbunga 0.

Philippines (81)_ – Blatche 23, Perez 17, Bolick 10, Pogoy 8, Aguilar 8, Ravena 6, Barroca 4, Lee 3, Fajardo 2, Rosario 0, Almazan 0, Norwood 0.

Quarterscores: 21-20, 38-24, 56-46, 73-73 (reg), 84-81 (OT)