MANILA, Philippines – Expect June Mar Fajardo to dedicate more time working on his free throws.
The gentle giant beat himself up after he missed two crucial foul shots late in Gilas Pilipinas' agonizing 70-78 home loss to Iran in the fifth window of the World Cup qualifiers on Monday, December 3.
With the Filipinos leading 68-67 at the 2:20 mark in the 4th, Fajardo had a chance to extend their advantage to 3 points but muffed his charities to the dismay of the mammoth home crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Fajardo compensated for his foul line blunder by giving Gilas a 70-69 lead off a layup with 1:06 minutes left only to witness the Iranians ride on a win-clinching 9-0 spurt.
"Nakaka-frustrate. Sobrang crucial noong mintis ko. Kailangan talagang i-work out 'yung free throws, lalo na sa endgame," a downcast Fajardo told Filipino reporters after the loss.
(It's frustrating. My misses were crucial. I really need to work out on my free throws, especially on the endgame.)
The loss dealt a huge blow on the Filipinos' chances of reaching the 2019 FIBA World Cup as they slipped to 4th place in Group F behind a 5-5 card.
A win would have catapulted the Philippines to joint 2nd place with Iran and Japan, but now, it must sweep its final two games in the sixth and final window and hope for a top 3 finish that guarantees a World Cup berth.
"Sobrang hirap. Masakit ang talo, masakit na natalo tayo. Hindi ito 'yung gusto nating ending pero ganito ang nangyari. Kailangan nating matuto sa talong ito," the reigning four-time PBA Most Valuable Player added.
(It's hard. It hurts that we lost. This is now the ending that we wanted but it already happened. We just need to learn from the loss.)
With more than two months before their sixth window battles against Kazakhstan and Qatar in February, Fajardo highlighted the team's need or having more time to gear up.
"Kailangan ng time, kasi galing kami sa iba-ibang sistema. 'Yun lang sinasabi ni coach (Yeng Guiao), kailangan talaga mag-adapt agad kasi short period lang yung preparation."
(We need time because we're used to playing under different systems. That's what coach Yeng Guiao has been saying, we need to adapt in a short period of preparation.) – Rappler.com
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.