Gallant Gilas Pilipinas falls short in Olympic dream, yields to mighty China in FIBA Asia final

FIBA photo

FIBA photo

The Philippine national men’s basketball team put up a gallant fight but China was just too much overcome as the hosts pulled out a 78-67 victory to capture the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship gold medal Saturday at College of Social Work Dayun in Changsha, China.

Naturalized player Andray Blatche top-scored for Gilas Pilipinas with 17 points and five boards, but he never found his groove against the Chinese defense.

Jayson Castro, brilliant all tournament long, also had a hard time on the offensive end, finishing with eight points while only shooting three out of 14 baskets from the field.

With the loss, the Filipinos missed out on their chance to book an automatic berth in the 2016 Rio Olympics as China claimed the right to be Asia’s representative in the prestigious stage.

But the loss isn’t the end of Gilas Pilipinas’ Olympic quest, as the Filipinos are already qualified for the Olympic wildcard tournament next year along with the runner-ups of the other continents.

The Filipinos got off to a 5-0 start and were able to keep that five-point spread until China, sparked by its rowdy hometown crowd, came alive.

The Chinese launched a 12-0 bomb to take a 22-15 lead. Gilas Pilipinas was able to trim it to just four, 23-19 after the opening quarter.

But the Filipinos struggled to get their game going against the much taller Chinese, with Castro hesitating on drives due to China’s length and Blatche being defended well by fellow former NBA player Yi Jianlian.

China went on to grab a 13-point lead, 46-33, its biggest lead in the first half, as the Filipinos, despite standing their ground on defense, kept on giving up fouls while also not getting favorable calls.

As the Filipinos continued their shooting woes, China expanded its lead to as big as 16, 60-44, after a Li Gen triple.

But Gilas Pilipinas became aggressive in the dying seconds of the third frame, with Calvin Abueva, despite missing free throws, providing the energy for the squad. The Filipinos were somehow just down by 10, 60-50, entering the final frame.

However, China started the fourth period with five straight points to build a commanding 65-50 lead that kept the Filipinos at bay.

(Click next page below for the game’s play-by-play updates.)

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