‘Goodbye, Rio’: Gilas easy prey to Tall Blacks, blows Olympic bid
Nelson Beltran (The Philippine Star) - July 7, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Barely 24 hours after striking fear in the world No. 5, Gilas Pilipinas did everything in reverse and absorbed an 80-89 loss to Tall Blacks of New Zealand and remained in Olympic limbo.

It was a sorry end for the Nationals hoping to gain passage in the Rio Games a day after holding their own against Team Les Bleus of France and took an exit in Group B of the Manila side of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament before their adoring fans at the MOA Arena last night.

“New Zealand is a tough basketball team, and it’s difficult to compete with them. We didn’t play well and it’s on us,” said Gilas coach Tab Baldwin in their sorry loss to the Kiwis.

Without a real threat in the post but packed with prolific guards and deadly gunners, the Kiwis frustrated Andray Blatche, his Gilas teammates and the home crowd, pulling off the win that automatically sent France and New Zealand to the semifinals of the short six-day meet.

Gilas hit the end of the road while France’s Les Bleus and New Zealand’s Tall Blacks merely fight for spots in the semis as they collide at 9 p.m. tonight at the same Pasay City playing venue.

France also goes for a two-game sweep in Group B as it takes on New Zealand in the elims closing match at 9 p.m.

Canada marched on to the semifinals by thwarting a gritty Senegal side, escaping with a 58-55 victory earlier in Group A.

Senegal and Turkey dispute the other semis spot from Group A in a do-or-die duel at 6:30 p.m. tonight.

“We have to sit back, analyze and see what happens. Congrats to New Zealand,” Baldwin also said.

Brothers Tai Jack and Corey Webster, Isaac Fotu and Thomas Abercrombie made at least 13 points each, being at the scoring end of a superb New Zealand game marked by great movement and crisp passing with consummate ease.

With a near flawless game, the Tall Blacks seized control early and were in command almost throughout of the game, leading by 13 points twice midway through the third period.

  From 10 points down at 50-60, Gilas made a frantic chase, twice coming to within two points at 58-60 and 60-62 largely behind the efforts of Blatche.

But as Blatche sat down briefly to have a scratch on his hands attended, the Tall Blacks wasted no time to make a killing, unloading six crucial, unanswered points to regain full control at 78-65 entering the last two minutes of the game.

Blatche struggled for four points in the first half before getting into the groove, piling up 26 points in the second half.

Gilas as a team couldn’t keep up with New Zealand’s swashbuckling game.   

Gilas got off to a shaky start, missing layups, committing more turnovers and yielding more charities as the Nationals trailed, 31-38, at the half.

Pouncing on the numerous Gilas lapses were the Webster brothers who combined for 21 points, including 6-of-6 charities in the first 20 minutes of the game.

The Nationals stayed in the game in the first two quarters on 5-of-6 three-pointers by Jayson Castro and Chan.

It was a bitter end for the Filipinos whose brave stand against the Tony Parker-led French squad Tuesday sparked hopes for a crucial win against the Tall Blacks.

But it wasn’t to be. Gilas was only a shell of the team that slugged it out with the Les Bleus in a mighty showdown where the hosts apparently spent themselves from the effort.

They started poorly and were tentative in their offense and defense as the Tall Blacks started hitting from the quartercourt and in the shaded lane and the fans in the stands knew that it was just a matter of time before the Filipinos’ dream of Olympic return would remain a dream.

 The last time the Philippines mixed it up in the basketball side of the Olympics was in 1972 in Munich, Germany.

The Canadians used quickness and better court savvy to buck the Senegalese’ size advantage and complete a sweep in Group A play following a 77-69 triumph over Turkey on opening night.

Guards Joseph, Melvin Ejim and Tyler Ennis starred for the Canadians as they overcame the Senegalese in a tight, low-scoring battle.

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