Return flight home rebooked as Gilas Pilipinas stays in Olympic hunt

Delfin Dioquino

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Return flight home rebooked as Gilas Pilipinas stays in Olympic hunt

ADORED. Gilas Pilipinas acknowledges its fans after its game against Georgia in the 2024 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.


Bunched with two top 25 teams in the world, the idea of going this far in the Olympic qualifiers seemed so remote that Gilas Pilipinas had been prepared to return home right after the group stage

MANILA, Philippines – Tim Cone is normally inconsolable after a loss.

But perhaps for the first time in his career, Cone gladly settled for a defeat as Gilas Pilipinas earned its place in the final four of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Riga, Latvia, even after bowing to Georgia, 96-94.

Despite the loss that dropped the team to 1-1, the Philippines finished second in Group A via a quotient tiebreaker and advanced to the crossover semifinals to face the top seed from Group B, which includes Brazil, Montenegro, and Cameroon.

“It’s the first time I’ve felt good about losing,” said Cone during the post-game press conference on Thursday, July 4.

Cone and his coaching staff opted for the defeat even with the Filipinos having a shot at overtime as they trailed 93-96 with 14 seconds remaining.

The Philippines needed to win against Georgia to reach the knockout stage as the top seed. But the Nationals could still advance as the second-ranked team with a loss, as long as they lose by no more than 18 points.

Cone went the safer route in the endgame, taking the defeat instead of going for an extra period that could have given Georgia a chance to build their target winning margin.

With the result, Gilas Pilipinas moved within just two victories of a coveted berth in the Paris Games.

But the idea of going this far, especially after being bunched with two top 25 teams in world No. 6 Latvia and No. 23 Georgia, seemed so remote that the Filipinos had been prepared to immediately return home after the group stage.

“We already bought all the tickets to leave tomorrow. So I guess we have to move them back a little bit, that’s how surprised we are to be here and talking to you guys,” said Cone after the Philippines beat great odds, pulling off a colossal 89-80 upset of Latvia then climbing out of a 20-point hole against Georgia to stay in the hunt.

As the team inches closer to its goal, Cone does not want his players to get caught up in the hoopla of ending the Philippines’ five-decade absence in Olympic basketball since its last appearance in the 1972 Munich Games.

“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.”

For now, Gilas Pilipinas takes a much-needed break as it waits for its next foe. –

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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.