Chot Reyes and Gilas Pilipinas tasted what competing in the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup would be like againts Montenegro a few days before the event began.
“This game made us feel like we’re here, in the World Cup,” Reyes said after the Philippines fell to World No. 18 Montenegro 102-87 late Sunday. “The kind of team we’re playing, they’ve been with a team for a long time, with great talent and everything else: Smooth system offensively and defensively.”
Montenegro Ends Gilas Pilipinas’ Streak Ahead of World Cup Opener
The Montenegrins’ victory ended Gilas Pilipinas’ three-game winning streak coming into the World Cup, which begins on Friday, but Reyes said there was so much to learn from the game as the team prepared to compete against some of the world’s top sides.
“I like how we fought them throughout the first half.” “We just had a letdown defensively in that third quarter, and… that’s why we play those games—to see what else we can improve on,” Reyes said in a national federation dispatch issued on Monday.
For the first two periods at PhilSports Arena, the two sides were neck and neck before a third-quarter Montenegro comeback spearheaded by Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic and naturalized guard Kendrick Perry.
That is one lesson Reyes hopes his charges take away with them.
“When we started the third quarter with three consecutive turnovers and then [Montenegro made]… an 8-0 run that turned the tide,” he said.
“When we give good, quality teams like Montenegro momentum, a lead like that will be tough to recover from.” “All it takes is a brief setback to see what happens,” he continued.
Gilas’ Efforts Fall Short Despite Strong Performances from Clarkson, Fajardo, and Ramos
Jordan Clarkson led the way with 27 points, June Mar Fajardo added 19, and Dwight Ramos added 13. Still, their efforts could not enable Gilas to prolong their winning streak, which began during a pocket tournament in China.
And they’ll need more than the trio’s efforts against tall and athletic teams like the Dominican Republic and Italy in Group A, which is why Reyes is aiming for contributions from his whole squad.
“Our bigs have their work cut out [for themselves],” he remarked. “They have to work on penetration, protect the rim, and still be able to come out, close out on their men, the bigs, when they’re shooting from the outside.”
“But it’s not entirely their responsibility; their teammates must be able to assist and rotate to shut those guys down,” he continued.
Gilas had one more chance to make changes against No. 31 Mexico, a team with speed, explosiveness, and many shooting threats.
The 12 Guerreros are coming off victories over Egypt and Lebanon, one of Gilas’ competitors for Asia’s lone Olympic qualification.
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