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Italy ends Gilas five’s FIBA World Cup dream with 90-83 thrashing

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TIGHT DEFENSE. The Philippines’ AJ Edu tries to force his way past Italy’s defense in their 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup match on Tuesday at the Araneta Coliseum.

Gilas Pilipinas kissed its hopes of advancing to the second round goodbye following a 90-83 loss to Italy in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Tuesday night.

Needing to win by 12 points or more, the Filipinos found themselves yielding the game by 7 points instead, losing command of a game they controlled in the first quarter in the face of the Italians’ methodical half-court sets and three-point shooting.

NBA star and Gilas’ primary weapon Jordan Clarkson had 23 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists, and won his personal matchup with his Utah Jazz teammate Simone Fontecchio (18 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 assist).

The latter, however, had the last laugh as the no. 10 Italians made safe passage to the second round, with the Dominican Republic.

“(Clarkson) did an unbelievable job today. He played his heart out. He’s my teammate. What can I say,” said Fontecchio as the Azzuri made it to the round of 16. With the loss, its third straight in the tournament in as many games, the Philippines failed to advance to the second round for the second straight World Cup.

The Filipinos are now relegated to the classification phase, where the lone berth for Asia in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games remained at stake, although Japan already has an inside track for it with a victory to show against Finland, 98-88.

The Philippines finished last in its group with a 0-3 mark and became the first host team since Colombia in 1982 to lose its first three games in the tournament, according to FIBA.

“Tough game. We competed in all our games. We gave our best efforts. Tried to figure out their games, and get wins,” said Clarkson.

“Kailangan naming iyung aming sixth man, iyung mga fans. Din man namin nakukuha iyung resulta na gusto nila. Pero, wala naman may gusto nito. Lahat sa amin naman, gusto manalo (We needed our sixth man, the fans. We may not have gotten the result they wanted, but nobody wants this result. All of us on Gilas do want to win),” said PH guard Kiefer Ravena.

“We’re proud of the effort of our players. What a way to fight, coming off two painful losses. They showed up tonight, and gave it their all, against a top 10 team in the world,” added Gilas coach Chot Reyes.

“They lost three games. But they fought in all those three games. Clarkson is really a star. And he has amazing behavior. He surprised me, not because he is a star, but because he played with passion, he played with emotion. Like, he was really involved. Like when he was on the bench, and when he had five fouls in the first game,” said Italian coach Gianmarco Pozzecco.

After taking control of the first quarter, the Filipinos began slipping in the second quarter, allowing Fontecchio to run amuck with 6 straight points as the Italians stormed to a 9-point lead at the half, 48-39.

They grew the lead to 73-60 courtesy of a buzzer-beating trey by Alessandro Pajola off a broken play heading into the fourth. The Italians, who had been shooting horribly in the past two games, finally found their touch in the game, sinking 17 treys in 41 tries for a scorching 41.5%, to the 34.5% of the hosts (10 of 29).

Italy led by as much as 17, 88-71, on a triple Giampaolo Ricci with 3:10 left in the fourth, but Gilas had a late run with Clarkson and Kiefer Ravena leading the attack, trimming the deficit to just 81-88.

Alessandro Pajola, however, sank both his free throws for a 90-81 lead, with only 32 seconds left, with Ravena hitting a driving shot for the final tally five seconds later.

The Italians have secured a top-16 spot for the 10th time in 10 World Cup appearances after taking second place in Group A with a 2-1 record.

Italy’s win in front of 11,821 fans at the Big Dome improved their all-time record against the Asians to 5-1, having won the last five games following a 32-14 loss in the 1936 Olympics.

Italy also beat the Philippines 108-62 in the first round of the 2019 World Cup.

In the first game of the night, Gilas Pilipinas got a helping hand from first-game tormentor Dominican Republic, which momentarily left a window open for the hosts’ second-round bid after surviving Angola, 75-67.

Led by Andres Feliz, who scored 17 points, the Dominicans survived a foul-plagued night for Karl-Anthony Towns and the valiant stand from the Angolans to sweep the first round with a perfect 3-0 record.

This gave the Filipinos a chance to advance to the second round, which the home team later squandered. Feliz and Victor Liz, who had 13 points, took over in the last period after Towns ran into foul trouble early in the third quarter.

“It’s amazing, it’s amazing. Nobody thought of us going 3-0. It is amazing that we were able to do this,” said Feliz of the Dominicans, who formally advanced to the second round.

The Angolans, with Silvio de Sousa making 19 points, kept his team ahead for the last time, after penetrating four times for a 65-63 edge in the final 2:52. After that, Jean Montero and Liz forced two turnovers. Baskets from Liz, Feliz, and Towns in the last 56 seconds put the Dominicanos safely in front, 71-65.

Dominican Coach Nestor Garcia praised Towns for cheering for his team and for his help in controlling the boards in the early stages of the game.

“This team is in a tough group. Among the many players I have, he’s the best player I have in the tournament. I’m talking about his heart. Around him or without him, the team made a lot of effort, and Towns made time to find his teammates,” said Garcia.

Six Italians scored in double figures. While Simone Fontecchio led the way with 18 points, Marco Spissu did a great job directing the Italians and also hitting some big shots to win the TCL Player of the Game award.

The guard Spissu poured in 13 points including 4 three-pointers and also picked up 9 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. Italian coach Gianmarco Pozzecco drastically cut his rotation, playing only 8 players more than 1:18 minutes and three Italians did not play at all.

The Europeans shot 52 percent on two-pointers and converted 15-of-17 free throws (88 percent) while committing only 11 turnovers. And Italy produced a 21-10 advantage in points off turnovers as the hosts lost 14 balls.

Italy now move onto the Second Round where they will face off against the top two teams from Group B in hopes of reaching the Quarter-Finals.



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