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MANILA, Philippines – There is nothing left to salvage for Gilas Pilipinas but pride.
Its hopes for an automatic ticket to the Paris Olympics dashed, the Philippines looks to end its World Cup campaign on a good note as it faces China for its final classification game at the Araneta Coliseum on Saturday, September 2.
Morale is understandably at rock bottom for the Nationals having lost all of their first four games, but head coach Chot Reyes said they have to regroup for one last shot at redemption.
“We’re playing for flag and country and we’re doing this as really our way to serve the country, the Philippines,” said Reyes after an 87-69 loss to South Sudan on Thursday, August 31, at the start of the classification phase.
“It is more than just a ball game or just a win. It is something larger – hopefully ending on a winning note, giving a lasting impression.”
Reyes remembered being in the exact same position when he called the shots for the Philippines in the 2014 World Cup, where it dropped its first four games before it broke through.
Beaten by Croatia, Greece, Argentina, and Puerto Rico in successive fashion, the Filipinos somehow saved their campaign with an 81-79 overtime win over Senegal.
Gilas Pilipinas has not won in the World Cup since. It finished the previous edition dead last out of the 32 participating teams after posting a 0-5 record.
The Philippines aims to avoid another winless run as it tries to get back at China after losing their last encounter in the preliminary round of the 2018 Asian Games, which marked the game Jordan Clarkson debuted for the country.
A win over Team Dragon will also prevent a repeat of what happened to the Philippines’ 1978 squad, which failed to win a single game the last time the country hosted the World Cup.
“We’re trying to put everything together for one last push. There is really no bearing except for pride, fight for country, for service, which is exactly why we’re all here in the first place, no matter how difficult this job is,” said Reyes.
Momentum favors China as it barged into the winning column on Thursday after going winless in the group stage with an 83-76 victory over Angola to open the classification round.
Slowly but surely, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kyle Anderson is adapting to his new Chinese teammates and adjusting to the FIBA play to the tune of all-around averages of 12 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal.
Held back by slow starts and inability to close out games in all of their losses, Reyes has his fingers crossed that his wards saved the best for last.
“The only thing we can do now is just focus on the next. There is one more game to be played. We’ll prepare as well as we can to again put up a fight,” said Reyes.
“Hopefully, we can come in and play our best on Saturday.” – Rappler.com