MANILA, Philippines – Batang Gilas got a rude welcome to its FIBA Under-17 World Cup campaign, falling hard to powerhouse Croatia, 97-75, in Rosario, Argentina on Saturday, June 30 (Sunday, July 1, in Manila).
Although the Philippines fielded its tallest youth team yet, the 7-foot-1 Kai Sotto and 6-foot-7 newbie Carl Tamayo were not enough to stop the world’s 10th-ranked boys’ team.
Sotto led the way for the listless Batang Gilas squad with a double-double of 23 points and 12 rebounds on top of a steal and a block.
Croatia cruised to a 19-point lead, 37-18, midway through the second quarter off a triple by 6-foot-4 scoring machine Matej Rudan.
Rudan led the Croatian charge with 16 points while his namesake Matej Bosnjak followed him with 14 points of his own.
Halfway through the 3rd quarter, National University Bullpups sniper Terrence Fortea ripped the rock from point man Lovro Gnjidic and pulled up for the transition triple to manage the gap within single-digit, 47-55.
However, turnovers continued to hound the upstart Filipino squad as the Croatians promptly left them in the dust for good off a quarter-ending 16-2 run, 71-49.
They ran the lead as high as 32 points, 73-49, in the 4th quarter before taking their foot off the gas.
Fortea chipped in 14 points and a 4-of-6 (67%) clip from 3-point range. Tamayo finished with 12 points and 8 boards in his Batang Gilas debut.
Batang Gilas’ 53-38 rebounding advantage didn’t even matter as they committed more than double the giveaways (28) to their assists (12), which Croatia translated to a huge 30-11 gap in points off turnovers.
Croatia burst out on an 8-0 run to start the contest before Fortea sank a triple for Gilas’ first points, a sign of things to come later on. Then both teams just went back and forth to end the quarter 25-15, as Gilas failed to make a single stop within the exchange.
Croatia (97) – Rudan 16, Bosjnak 14, Gulin 13, Prkacin 10, Gnjidic 9, Gizdavcic 8, Saric 8, Skarica 7, Perasovic 5, Parlov 4, Paponja 3, Rasic 0.
Philippines (75) – Sotto 23, Fortea 14, Cortez 13, Tamayo 12, Abadiano 6, Padrigao 3, Andrada 2, Calimag 2, Chiu 0, Guadana 0, Lazaro 0.
Quarter scores: 25-15, 44-31, 71-49, 97-75