SEVILLA—Gilas Pilipinas came short on an 81-78 overtime decision against Croatia in their opening games of the 2014 FIBA World Cup held at Seville, Spain on Saturday noon (Saturday evening, Manila time).
The Nationals, after coming back from an early double-digit deficit, was on the verge of pulling an upset, but came short in another rally in the extra session.
Down by 14 at the end of the first quarter (23-9), RP fueled a rally which trimmed the Croatina’s lead to only six by halftime.
But Croatia roared and showed their dominance anew in the late portion of the third quarter where a buzzer-beating top-of-the-key three-pointer went in, sending Croatia’s cushion to eight, 57-49.
But again, Philippines responded well and even took the lead, 67-66, with 2:49 remaining before Croatia neutralized Gilas’ rally and even pushed themselves back at the driver’s seat, 71-69.
However, Gilas guard Jason Castro refused to back down as the Asia’s mythical five member scored on a teardrop to knot the score at 71-all. They had some chances to steal the game, but missed on them; thus, sending the game into an extra five-minute period.
From there, Croatia rolled on the game, keeping RP at bay. After taking a two-point lead with 41 seconds left to play, RP failed to connect their shots to keep themselves back in the contest.
Down by three in the final six seconds, Gilas had a chance to send the game into second overtime; but Castro—known in FIBA uniform as Jayson William—misfired on three-point shot at the buzzer.
Naturalized player Andray Blatche paced the Philippine squad with 28 points and 12 rebounds, while shooting guard Jeff Chan sizzled for 17 markers in 5-for-10 shooting, mostly came on the 3-point territory.
Marc Pingris also scored double digits for Gilas Pilipinas with 10.
Bojan Bogdanovic led Croatia with 26 points on 9-for-18 field goal shooting in 39 minutes and two seconds of playing time; while center Ante Tomic had eight points, a team-high 11 rebounds and four assists.
Krunoslav Simon contributed 12 points, seven assists, and three dishes for the winning team.
In the other games, Ukraine defeated Domincan Republic, 72-62 in Group C; Angola stunned Korea, 80-69; and the Egypt vs. Serbia game was playing at press time.
Despite the loss, several sports critics lauded the national team’s efforts for putting up a fight. They also pointed the official’s missed calls such as the series of ‘three-second’ violations, and the very last play which resulted into a flubbed three-point attempt.
The analysts also described the contest as the Philippines’ “message” to the basketball world.
The fan frenzy also dominated the social media, the names Blatche, Castro, Croatia and the hashtags #FIBAWorldCup, #LabanPilipinas and the words Go Gilas topped the Philippine trending topics on the social networking site Twitter. The word Filipinas also trended in Spain.
Philippines will have their next game on Sunday, 8. P.M. (2 A.M. Manila Time) against Greece.