Gilas Pilipinas falls short of upset vs Poland in final friendly before FIBA OQT

Delfin Dioquino

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Gilas Pilipinas falls short of upset vs Poland in final friendly before FIBA OQT

DEFENSE. Justin Brownlee of Gilas Pilipinas guards Jeremy Sochan of Poland during a tuneup game on June 29, 2024.

WOJCIECH FIGURSKI/Polish Basketball Federation

Gilas Pilipinas' fourth-quarter comeback led by Dwight Ramos and Justin Brownlee comes up short against a Poland side ranked 15th in the world and bolstered by NBA player Jeremy Sochan

MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas gave Poland a run for its money before absorbing an 82-80 loss in its final tuneup game for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament on Saturday, June 29 (Sunday, June 30, Manila time).

Trailing by as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter, the Filipinos rode on a gritty comeback led by Dwight Ramos and Justin Brownlee, but the Polish – ranked 15th in the world – held on to defend their turf at the Arena Sosnowiec.

Brownlee finished with a game-high 30 points, while Ramos posted 16 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals as they took turns to bring the Philippines back into the contest after Poland pulled away early in the final frame.

Poland held a slim 58-56 edge through the first three quarters before it erected a blazing 18-6 run highlighted by four triples to mount its biggest lead of the game at 76-62 with five minutes left.

That sloppy start in the fourth period prompted Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tim Cone to give his players a piece of his mind during a timeout.

“We’re not even trying anymore,” a fuming Cone told his wards as heard through the broadcast. “If we’re going to play like this, we have no chance.”

His pep talk seemed to have worked as the Filipinos chipped away at their deficit behind Ramos, who took over late and unloaded 10 points in a 16-6 rally that pulled his side within 78-82.

The gallant fightback, though, fell short after Ramos missed a long three-pointer inside the final 50 seconds that would have made it a one-point game, with Poland hanging on by milking the clock.

Michal Sokolowski churned out 21 points on a 3-of-4 clip from beyond the arc to go with 5 assists and 4 steals for Poland, which escaped with the win on the back of its deadly three-point shooting (11-of-24).

Half of those treys came in the decisive fourth quarter as the Polish shot an ultra-efficient 6-of-8 from long distance in the period.

Aleksander Balcerowski backstopped Sokolowski with 12 points, while NBA player Jeremy Sochan of the San Antonio Spurs tallied 8 points and 4 rebounds before sitting out the entire second half.

June Mar Fajardo put up 10 points and Kai Sotto chimed in 8 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists for the Philippines, which frittered away a nine-point lead, 23-14, in the opening quarter.

Gilas Pilipinas ended the first period up 23-16 but got outscored 25-15 in the second quarter as Poland entered the break with a 41-38 lead.

The loss was the second in a row for the Filipinos in their European trip after they suffered an 84-73 loss to world No. 24 Turkiye (Turkey) in Istanbul two days prior.

Although winless in its back-to-back friendly matches, the Philippines hopes to apply the lessons it learned from battling two top 30 squads in the OQT that will be staged in Riga, Latvia, from July 2 to 7.

Standing in its way are world No. 6 Latvia and No. 23 Georgia in Group A, with the Filipinos needing a top-two finish to advance to the crossover semifinals.

Poland, which crushed New Zealand in another tuneup game, will also vie for a Paris Games berth in the OQT in Valencia, Spain.

The Scores

Poland 82 – Sokolowski 21, Balcerowski 10, Sochan 8, Pluta 8, Ponitka 7, Zyskowski 6, Milicic 5, Dziewa 5, Michalak 5, Niziol 5, Mazurczak 2, Zolnierewicz 0. 

Philippines 80 – Brownlee 30, Ramos 16, Fajardo 10, Sotto 8, Newsome 6, Aguilar 4, Tamayo 4, Perez 2, Oftana 0, Quiambao 0. 

Quarters: 16-23, 41-38, 58-56, 82-80.


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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.