Gilas comes close but loses heartbreaker to Argentina

SEVILLE, Spain (UPDATED) – Gilas Pilipinas put up another valiant effort but fell short against the third-ranked team in the world Argentina, 85-81, to suffer their third straight loss on Tuesday, September 2.

After Jayson Castro was called for traveling attempting a go-ahead three-pointer, Andres Nocioni hit two late free throws to push Argentina's lead to four with 6.6 seconds to go. Gilas, which had no more time-outs, turned to Andray Blatche who missed a long 3-ball, sealing the loss. 

Luis Scola led Argentina with 19 points and 4 assists while Ranidel De Ocampo top-scored GIlas with 18 points and Blatche grabbed a team-high 15 rebounds.

Team captain Jimmy Alapag was a huge part of Gilas' strong stand against Argentina. Like what he did in the team's game against Korea over a year ago, the man they call the "Mighty Mouse" made triple after triple to keep Argentina within striking distance. 

Alapag finished the game with 15 points on 5/7 shooting from the three-point area.

Asked what inspired him to put on such a performance, Alapag said it was the crowd.

"It's rare to have an opportunity to play the number three team in the world, seeing all our kababayans that came out here to show their support, who wouldn't go out there to play a game that they can be proud of," said the sharp-shooting point guard. 

Gabe Norwood also took some of the spotlight throwing down a vicious one-handed slam over Luis Scola during Gilas' searing run in the first half.

The third quarter opened with a pleasant welcome for the Philippines as Gabe Norwood, who finished with 6 points, provided his second poster dunk of the ball game by slamming the ball with his left hand over Mata.

Not long after, Castro converted his third 3-ball in the game from the wing to tie the contest at 51.

Luis Scola led Argentina with 19 points and 4 assists while Ranidel De Ocampo top-scored Gilas with 18 points and Blatche grabbed a team-high 15 rebounds.

Argentina improved to 2-1 in the World Cup, while Team Philippines falls to 0-3.

Head coach Chot Reyes was visibly deflated right before addressing the media in a press conference. 

To come so close but still come up short, Reyes only had this to say: "This one really hurt."

"It hurts so much because my boys fight so hard. They just fight so hard and they never quit," added Reyes.

"We are undersized, we are banged-up, we have injuries, we're inexperienced but we just keep fighting and for me my only regret is I couldn't give the boys a way to give the country a win," he explained taking responsiblity for the loss.  

Despite a trio of losses,  Philippines still has a chance to make the Round of 16 by quotient granted Senegal loses to them and to Argentina.

Alapag and company will also have to beat Puerto Rico, whom they face on on September 3, Wednesday, at 1:30 pm (7:30 pm in PH).

– with reports from Naveen Ganglani/Rappler.com