GILAS Pilipinas’ hopes of advancing to the second round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 hang by a thread, but coach Chot Reyes has refused to wave the white flag, still hoping that there is still a chance to book a seat in the 2024 Paris Olympics, however small.
The Filipinos’ bid to become the best-placed Asian team in the World Cup 2023 took a nasty turn on Sunday following a stunning 80-70 loss to Angola at the Smart Araneta Coliseum and Japan pulling off a massive 98-88 victory over Finland over at the Okinawa Arena, thereby giving their Olympic bid a big push.
But Reyes is defiant.
“It is still alive. If Japan loses, and we win our last game, it’s tied. It’s going to be dependent on the other game. It’s not going to be in our hands. The only thing in our control is our next game,” said Reyes, referring to their 8 p.m. game against no. 7 Italy, which is also on the ropes and in a must-win situation after losing to Dominican Republic, also on Sunday, 87-82.
“We just need to focus on the next game. The objective is to get to the Olympics, so no matter how flickering that hope is, that hope is still alive. So, we still have to keep our heads up and find a way to play our best in the next game,” said Reyes.
Reyes and Gilas Pilipinas do have some glimmer of hope to cling to, but their fate is no longer in their hands. Ironically, they must pray first-game tormentor Dominican Republic gets past Angola on Tuesday at the Big Dome; and only then can they revive thoughts of advancing to the second round.
That’s easier said than done, however, as Gilas Pilipinas is facing world No. 7 Italy, which is also looking to make it to the second round of the tournament after a shocking loss to the Dominicans in the opener.
As for the Paris bid, Gilas Pilipinas also hopes that the Akatsuki Five drops its remaining Group Phase game against world No. 3 Australia and that no other Asian team picks up a first win.
One interesting sidelight to the PH-Italy game is the matchup between Utah Jazz teammates Jordan Clarkson and Simone Fontecchio.
Expected to watch the game is former eight-division world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, who, by now, must have heard of the challenge thrown at him by Italian coach Gianmarco Pozzeco upon their arrival in Manila – made in jest, of course, as the Azzurri’s shot-caller clarified later that he was a huge fan of the Filipino ring icon.
Meanwhile, Canada, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Montenegro were among those made it to the second round after second straight wins.