Doing the improbable: Gilas Pilipinas 2 wins away from Olympic goal

Delfin Dioquino

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Doing the improbable: Gilas Pilipinas 2 wins away from Olympic goal

HEART. CJ Perez in action for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2024 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.


What seemed like an improbable goal now looks like a doable task as Gilas Pilipinas stands two wins away from the Paris Games after advancing to the semifinals of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament

MANILA, Philippines – It has been so long since the last time the country sent a basketball team to the Olympics that none of the players of this current Gilas Pilipinas group were born at the time.

Decades have passed and the Philippines continues to wait for its Olympic basketball return since its last appearance in the 1972 Munich Games.

But what seemed like an improbable goal now looks like a doable task as the Nationals stand two victories away from the Paris Games after advancing to the final four of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Riga, Latvia.

Hoping to get closer to the quadrennial showpiece, the Philippines eyes an upset against Brazil in the crossover semifinals on Saturday, July 6, at 8:30 pm, Manila time.

Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tim Cone knows the prospect of playing in the Olympics sounds exhilarating, but he does not want his wards to get ahead of themselves.

“We want to stay with what’s right in front of us. We don’t want to look in the endgame and think, ‘Wow, what happens if we can make it to Paris?’ Obviously, the country would go bonkers,” said Cone. “They would go absolutely crazy.”

“But that’s a long ways away. We got this step done and we got another step to take. I think that’s where the focus is, and hopefully, that’s where the focus is of our guys.”

Ranked 12th in the world, Brazil owns the favorite tag with a lineup featuring six current and former NBA players.

Gui Santos of the Golden State Warriors is the only active NBA player, while Raul Neto, Marcelo Huertas, Bruno Caboclo, Cristiano Felicio, and Didi Louzada each played at least two seasons in the NBA.

But a lower-ranked team beating Brazil is possible, as shown by world No. 68 Cameroon when it hacked out a 77-74 win in Group B.

And the Philippines is no stranger to pulling off surprises in the OQT after stunning world No. 6 Latvia, 89-90, and deliberately losing by a single possession to world No. 23 Georgia, 96-94, in Group A.

The winner will face the victor of the other semifinal pairing between Latvia and Cameroon in the finale.

So far, eight teams have qualified for the Olympics, including host France, defending champion United States, Serbia, Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, and South Sudan.

Four more teams will punch their tickets to Paris through the OQTs, which are also simultaneously held in Valencia, Spain; Piraeus, Greece; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In Valencia, host Spain, Lebanon, the Bahamas, and Finland reached the semifinals, while Croatia, Slovenia, Greece, and the Dominican Republic clinched the final four berths in Piraeus.

Lithuania, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Italy advanced to the semifinals in San Juan.

Only the winners of the OQTs will make it to the Olympics. –

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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.