GILAS Pilipinas spent close to 21 days preparing for the Fiba Olympic Qualifiers. Unfortunately, in two days, Gilas Pilipinas is out of the running after losing to New Zealand, 89-80, last night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“Andray Blatche, stop taking 3-point shots,” someone wrote on the wall for fans at the venue before the New Zealand match, a must-win for the Philippines after it lost to the Tony Parker-led France on opening night.
But it was a Blatche trey, his first for the night, that put Gilas Pilipinas at its best chance of snatching a win. Down 60-53 going into the fourth, Jeff Chan made it 63-55 from the free throw line before Blatch cut the lead to two with a three-pointer that sent the house down, 60-58.
It was the closest the host would get. After New Zealand scored, 62-58, Blatche made it a two-point game again with a drive, 62-60, but a harried trey in his next possession led to a 3-point play for the visitors, 65-60.
Though the naturalized Filipino would hit three more treys in the final quarter, it wasn’t enough to control the bleeding as New Zealand broke away with easy dunks of turnovers to seal their first victory in the qualifiers.
Blatche led the home team with 30 points in 34 minutes, while Jason Castro had 13. Jeff Chan and Jun Mar Fajardo had 11 points each in limited action.
New Zealand was led by siblings Tai and Corey Webster, who had 25 and 23 points respectively.