Gilas proves it can compete with world's best in another close loss
By Nelson Beltran Updated Tuesday September 02, 2014 - 2:50pm

Gabe Norwood of Gilas Pilipinas goes up for a dunk against Argentina's Luis Scola in their 2014 FIBA World Cup game in Spain early Tuesday.

Games Wednesday

1:30 p.m. - Philippines vs Puerto Rico

5:30 p.m. - Senegal vs Argentina

10 p.m. - Greece vs Croatia

SEVILLE, Spain - With all its disadvantages and limitations, Gilas Pilipinas battled world No. 3 Argentina every step of the way, tripping up just in the dying seconds in an 81-85 loss in Day Three of the 2014 FIBA World Cup at the Centro Deportivo San Pablo here Monday night (early Tuesday morning in Manila).

The gutsy Philippine side, considered gatecrasher in this tourney among the world's giants, nearly upset Argentina and its NBA players in another sparkling performance reaffirming its worth as not just one of those teams in Asia.

It's another loss that felt like a win, its impact much bigger than the game that also barely slipped away from the team Saturday versus Croatia.

"Yun ang nakakabwisit sana tambakan na lang tayo. Pero the fact na dumidikit at lumalaban tayo (That's what disappointing. It's better to lose by a big margin against these teams. The fact that we're staying close, fighting), it shows that we can compete with these teams," said Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes.

"Sayang, konti lang. Mistakes here and there, lapses here and there. Missed rebounds here and there. Napakaliit ng diperensya," Reyes added.

Against this one-time world championship winner and one-time Olympic champ, Gilas Pilipinas barely lost as Jayson Castro failed to elude his defender, his three-point shot slightly deflected then he was called for a traveling violation with 12.7 ticks left in the clock.

A pair of charities by Andres Nocioni in the last six seconds sealed their win in the game where the Argentines saw themselves thrice trail by 10 in the first half then get a big scare as the Filipinos gallantly fought back from a 15-point third-quarter deficit.

Jimmy Alapag, the smallest man on the floor, was Argentina's biggest thorn with the pesky Talk n Text playmaker scoring all of his 15 points in the last 11 minutes of the nerve-wracking contest.

He fired away four treys and completed one three-point play in a bristling 28-14 run that shoved the Nationals to within one at 81-82 with 2:03 left.

A miss by Nocioni from close range opened an opportunity for Gilas to regain the lead but Andray Blatche misfired a trey.

From there, Nocioni made three charities while the New York Knicks guard Pablo Prigioni put the winning defensive stop on Castro as Argentina got the big relief, keeping a share of Group B second place with Croatia and Senegal at 2-1.

The Philippines, absent in the world championship in the last 36 years, is now at 0-3, losing to Croatia, Greece and Argentina by an average margin of only 6.3 points.

The Filipinos were beaten by the Argentines by a mere possession with coach Julio Lamas making a defensive switch, denying Alapag in the dying seconds.   

"We ran a play where we set a screen for Jimmy. But coach Lamas did a great job of bringing back (Facundo) Campazzo to deny Jimmy," said Reyes.

"And the one time we wanted Jayson to go hard to the basket, he pulled up. But I can't fault Jayson as every time he tries to go to the hoop, he can't finish because of the tall defense," Reyes added.

Playing like grizzled warriors in the world meet, the Filipinos surprisingly dominated most of the first half on a high-octane game with highlight plays from Castro, Ranidel de Ocampo and Gabe Norwood.

Castro, De Ocampo and Paul Lee combined for six three-pointers in a high-percentage shooting while Gabe Norwood soared above Luis Scola and Prigioni for a pair of jams that rocked the venue.

Matching up well with Argentine longtime mainstay Walter Herrmann, De Ocampo topscored for Gilas with 18 points, but couldn't finish the game due to cramps.

"Ibabalik namin sana even in our last possession, pero talagang hindi kaya," rued Reyes.

Blatche scored the game's first two baskets but drew two quick fouls that limited him to four minutes of action in the first half.

But a riveting start had Gilas Pilipinas leading the first 18 minutes of the game even with Blatche rooting on the bench.

The brave combination of De Ocampo, Junmar Fajardo, Castro, Norwood and LA Tenorio ran a show for the Philippines before Argentina came through with a decisive attack in the second quarter and grabbed a 43-38 lead at halftime.

Upon his return to the floor, Blatche scored on a drive, but then Prigioni had a three-point attempt that got a lucky bounce at the buzzer, and the Argentines carried a five-point lead over into the final half.

The Filipinos drew level at 48 on a 10-5 start in the third period, but the Argentines, on the hot sniping of Priogini and inside incursions by Scola and Nocioni, reestablished control at 68-53.

But the Filipinos wouldn't be daunted and wouldn't fade.

Gilas fought till the dying seconds in a proud performance that would be remembered for a long, long time.

The scores:

Argentina 85 - Scola 19, Mata 17, Laprovittola 10, Herrmann 10, Nocioni 9, Campazzo 9, Prigioni 8, Gutierrez 3.

Philippines 81 - De Ocampo 18, Alapag 15, Blatche 14, Castro 11, Fajardo 6, Lee 6, Norwood 6, Tenorio 3, Aguilar 2, Chan 0, Pingris 0.

Quarterscores: 22, 25, 43-38, 71-61, 85-81

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