With the 89-80 loss of Gilas Pilipinas to New Zealand on Wednesday night, July 6, the country kisses its Olympic bid goodbye, for now, as it watches the rest of the games at the Manila Qualifiers.
The Tall Blacks ran circles around the Filipinos’ defense and were almost unstoppable in scoring as they assured themselves not only of advancing to the semifinals but also of having the chance to be the top seed in Group B.
New Zealand clashes with France, which beat Gilas in its first game, at 9 p.m. today, Thursday, July 7, for the right to play either Turkey or Senegal in the Final Four on Saturday, July 9.
The Turks and the Senegalese face off at 6:30 p.m. for No. 2 in Group A, which Canada topped after a 58-55 victory over the African champions in the first game on Wednesday.
A near-sellout crowd showed up at the Mall of Asia Arena as the Filipinos became the favorites to beat the Tall Blacks after going down fighting to the French, 84-93, on Tuesday, July 6.
Gilas coach Tab Baldwin said after the game: “We didn’t play our best basketball today, and that’s on us. But they (Filipinos) gave it their best shot. I guess we just have to fight for another day.”
Andray Blatche and Terrence Romeo, who were scoreless in the first period, led the charge in the fourth quarter, as Gilas, which trailed most of the way, came within 60-62, with 7:37 left.
The Webster brothers Tai and Corey led the Tall Blacks with 25 and 23 points, respectively, with Tai completing a double-double with 11 rebounds.
Isaac Fotu, a 7-foot center, hit three triples on the way to 17 points.
Blatche, held to just four points in the first half, finished with 30.
Jason Castro had 13 points, June Mar Fajardo and Jeff Chan 11 each for the Filipinos, who huddled with Blatche later on and waved to their loyal fans, some of them wiping tears.
NEW ZEALAND 89—Webster T. 25, Webster C. 23, Fotu 17, Abercrombie 13, Vukona 6, Ili 2, Bartlett 2, Loe 1, Anthony 0, Karena 0.
GILAS PILIPINAS 80—Blatche 30, Castro 13, Chan 11, Fajardo 11, Rosario 7, Romeo 5, Reyes 2, Parks 1, Norwood 0, Pingris 0, Aguilar 0, De Ocampo 0.
Quarters: 21-17, 38-31, 60-53, 89-80