FIBA World Cup

Clarkson on fire as Gilas Pilipinas trips China for first FIBA World Cup win in nearly a decade

Delfin Dioquino

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Clarkson on fire as Gilas Pilipinas trips China for first FIBA World Cup win in nearly a decade

TAKE OVER. Jordan Clarkson in action for Gilas Pilipinas against China in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.


Jordan Clarkson saves the best for last as Gilas Pilipinas avoids another winless FIBA World Cup run

MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas’ near decade-long wait for its first FIBA World Cup win is over.

Jordan Clarkson saved the best for last as the Philippines avoided another winless FIBA World Cup run, salvaging its rather forgettable campaign with a 96-75 win over China at the Araneta Coliseum on Saturday, September 2.

Clarkson erupted for 24 of his 34 points in a phenomenal third quarter to propel the Philippines to its first World Cup win since 2014 when it beat Senegal in overtime.

Gilas Pilipinas lost all of its five games in the last World Cup to finish dead last out of the 32 teams and dropped its first four matches in this edition, falling prey to the Dominican Republic, Angola, Italy, and South Sudan.

A 10th straight World Cup loss did not seem unlikely, especially as Team Dragon held on to a slim 48-46 lead midway through the third period.

Clarkson, though, took over and starred in a sizzling 27-3 run to end the period that firmly put the Filipinos in the front seat, 73-51.

A man on a mission against the team that denied him a win in his debut for the Philippines in the 2018 Asian Games, the Utah Jazz ace caught fire for 20 points in a sensational four-minute display that took the fight out of China.

He capped the stretch with four three-pointers in a row, much to the delight of Filipino fans who braved the rain and made up the majority of the 11,000-strong crowd at the Big Dome.

Clarkson shot 5-of-10 from long distance and 11-of-18 overall for arguably his finest World Cup performance.

“We reminded the players that no matter the typhoon, the weather, [this] being essentially a no-bearing game, the crowd still came,” said Philippines head coach Chot Reyes. “We said let us gift them with a present.”

“That was what the players did, every single one of them. So proud. Unfortunately, the results did not come out as we expected, but to end with a win – no greater feeling.”

Last game

The triumph marked the first time the Filipinos won a World Cup game at home after the country lost all eight games of its hosting in 1978.

It also prevented the Philippines from becoming the first World Cup host to go winless since Colombia went 0-6 in 1982.

But as gratifying as the victory was following the series of heartbreaking defeats, it came too little, too late as Gilas Pilipinas botched its chance to clinch an outright berth in the Paris Olympics as the best Asian nation.

Owning up to the World Cup letdown, Reyes said he informed the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) that he intended the game against China to be his last.

“I think it is time for somebody else,” said Reyes. “I signed up to do a job and I did not deliver the result so I think it is time to step aside and allow the SBP to make a decision for the good of the team and the program.”

Clarkson and the locals rose to the occasion to give Reyes a victorious swan song.

Rhenz Abando shared the spotlight with Clarkson as he churned out 14 points, 5 rebounds, and a momentum-changing block on Kyle Anderson in the third quarter, while Kai Sotto delivered 12 points and 6 rebounds.

Dwight Ramos chimed in 11 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals for the Filipinos.

Anderson, known as Li Kaier in China and an NBA veteran like Clarkson who plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves, put up 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists in the loss as China finished with an identical 1-4 record as the Philippines and Angola in Group M.

Gilas Pilipinas, however, owned the tiebreaker with a superior point difference to wind up at second in Group M and 24th overall in the tournament, while Angola and China landed at 26th and 29th place, respectively.

The Scores

Philippines 96 – Clarkson 34, Abando 14, Sotto 12, Ramos 11, Fajardo 9, Pogoy 7, Edu 5, Thompson 4,  Ravena 0, Aguilar 0.

China 75 – Li 17, Zhang 13, M. Hu 12, R. Zhao 12, J. Hu 10, Zhu 5, Cui 2, Fu 2, Zhou 2, J. Zhao 0.

Quarters: 16-16, 39-40, 73-51, 96-75.


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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.