By ADRIAN STEWART CO
Gilas Pilipinas’ hopes of clinching an outright spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics remained alive despite being booted out of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup contention with a 90-83 loss to Italy at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Tuesday night, August 29.
This was made possible after Japan also failed to reach the round-of-16 after their lopsided 109-89 defeat to the Australia Boomers the other night at the Okinawa Arena in Japan.
Adding to that, all other Asian squads in the World Cup were also eliminated, which means the battle for the “Best Asian Finisher” with an outright Olympics slot is to be determined in the classification round.
Gilas Pilipinas naturalized player Jordan Clarkson said this development has made them extra motivated to win their two games in the classification round later this week to achieve their goal.
“We’re super motivated. The team is strong, we fight, we ain’t giving up. Basketball is a game of missed shots, ups and downs. We fight, we’re strong mentally, we gotta put it together,” Clarkson said.
Gilas Pilipinas failed to take advantage of Japan’s loss to clinch the outright Olympics slot as their fourth quarter rally against the Italians fell short, resulting in their third defeat in the group stage.
Down by as much as 18 points early in the fourth quarter, Gilas Pilipinas got conversions from AJ Edu and Jordan Clarkson and a three-point play from Dwight Ramos to cut the deficit to 68-80.
Italy widened the lead anew to 85-68 after a triple by Giampaolo Ricci and a layup by Simone Fontecchio, but triples by Roger Pogoy and Kiefer Ravena and inside hits by Clarkson, Ramos and Jamie Malonzo cut the deficit to 81-88.
Gilas Pilipinas still had a chance to come closer, but Ravena misfired on his three-point try before the Italians sealed the victory on two free throws by Alessandro Pajola with 32 seconds left.
Fontecchio top-scored for Italy with 18 points, Ricci added 14 markers with four triples, Marco Spissu and Stefano Tonut ended with 13 each, while Pajola and Nicolo Melli ended with 11 and 10 points, respectively, as they finished second in Group A with a 2-1 slate.
Clarkson finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists, Ramos added 14 markers as Gilas Pilipinas finished their group stage with a 0-3 record, relegating them to the classification phase./ASC, WDJ