By Jonas Terrado
(Mall of Asia Arena)
7:30 p.m. – Philippines vs Japan
Gilas Pilipinas failed to recover from numerous breakdowns on both ends in the third quarter and suffered an 84-68 loss to host Australia in the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers at the Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne.
The Filipino dribblers displayed a gritty resolve in the first half that resulted in a pair of five-point leads – the last at 30-25 on a basket by June Mar Fajardo – but allowed the Australians to claw back and go up 37-32 at the locker room.
From there, Gilas’ offense sputtered as it went 6-of-17 from the field in the third and had no answer for Australia’s crisp offensive plays, absorbing its first defeat in Group B of the first qualifying stage after wins over Japan and Taiwan last November.
Coach Chot Reyes opted to stick with the positives, especially with the result far from the blowout wins Australia handed to Japan and Taiwan by combined margins of 62 points.
“We came into this ballgame with our eyes wide open. We had no illusions facing a very strong, tough Australian team which is top 10 in the world and all we wanted to do was to compete,” Reyes said.
“Our game could have been better but our effort was there and we were able to at least account ourselves well, at least to compete with this Boomers squad,” he added.
Gilas returns to action Sunday night when it hosts Japan at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Fajardo’s 15 points was one of the few bright spots for Gilas, which paid a hefty price for its dismal shooting from three-point country and from the foul line.
Reyes expressed concern with Gilas hitting just 5-of-19 threes while missing 12 free throws in 19 attempts.
Naturalized player Andray Blatche struggled anew from the field, going 3-of-11 from the floor for eight points but Gilas may have found some silver lining with Kiefer Ravena and Kevin Alas making a good account of themselves in the absence of injured guard Jayson Castro.
Ravena and Alas scored six points apiece for Gilas as they filled in for Castro, who was left out of the 12-man roster because of a sprained ankle.
Cameron Gliddon, Mitchell Creek and naturalized player Kevin Lisch frustrated Gilas in the second half to give Australia the solo lead in Group B at 3-0.
AUSTRALIA 84 – Gliddon 16, Brandt 13, Creek 12, Lisch 12, Kay 7, Hodgson 6, Kickert 5, Norton 4, Wagstaff 4, Cadee 2, Sobey 2, McCarron 1.
PHILIPPINES 68 – Fajardo 15, Wright 9, Pogoy 8, Norwood 7, Alas 6, Ravena 6, Abueva 5, Tratter 2, Aguilar 2, Cruz 0, Maliksi 0.
Quarters: 19-19; 37-32; 63-49; 84-68.