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Tuesday, September 2, 2014
THE Philippine national quintet is in a must-win situation as it faces Puerto Rico today in the Group B stage of the 2014 Fiba World Cup in Seville, Spain.
The Filipino squad and the Puerto Ricans are the only team that have yet to win a game when they face each other at 7:30 tonight.
Greece, FIba’s no. 5 team leads Group B with a clean 3-0 slate followed by Croatia, Senegal and world No. 3 Argentina, which have similar 2-1 cards. The Philippines and Puerto Rico are 0-3.
Rain or Shine champion coach Yeng Guiao remains confident the Philippine national basketball team can still beat Puerto Rico and Senegal to be able to advance into the round-of-16 knockout phase.
“I think the match against Puerto Rico is a winnable game because they also have the same size as our guards. Initially, we thought Senegal is the ideal team we can beat, but with the way our team is playing, we can still beat them. But I hope they may have their night. I think we still have a chance to the next round,” said Guiao, the RP team coach in the 2009 Fiba-Asia Men's Championship in Tianjin, China.
Team skipper Jimmy Alapag fired five triples but still was not enough to completely carry the team to victory as they suffered their third straight setback following a 85-81 hearthbreaker to world No. 3 Argentina early Tuesday morning.
The mighty Alapag hit four triples in the fourth period alone, the moved the Philippine squad within a solitary point, 81-82, less than two minutes to go. But Jayson Castro committed a double touch violation that allowed the Argentinians to escape with the victory.
Philippine team head coach Chot Reyes, however, explained that he is not blaming the dimunitive Castro for the costly mistake while making a three-point shot before Argentina defender Pablo Prigioni with only 12.7 seconds remaining and they were down by just two points.
“As a coach, it’s my responsibility to get good shots for my players,” said Reyes as he refused to blame Castro for the late-game miscue. “My only regret in losing is that my boys tried so hard and I failed to get them a win. I failed to give our country a win.”
After that miscue, the Filipninos were forced to foul that paved way for NBA veteran Andres Nocioni to score two free throws with only 6.6 seconds to go.They lost their opening game to Croatia, 78-81, then to Greece, 70-82, Sunday night.
“It’s a once in a lifetime experience to play the No. 3 in the world Argentina and it’s a game I thought we fought every step of the way. In the game of basketball that's all you can ask for. Before this tournament started, we want to give ourselve the chance to stick around which we still do. But I think most of it is we want to get respect from the world. We deserve to be here,” said Alapag.
The setback kept the Philippines still winless in the FIBA World Championship for at least 40 years. The team last won a game via a pulsating 87-86 win over Central African Republic when it was held in Puerto Rico in 1974.
Gilas Pilipinas will complete their Group B match against Senegal set at 8 p.m. on Thursday.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 03, 2014.