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Gilas places 24th, earns FIBA Olympic qualifying tilt spot

Gilas Pilipinas’ game against China–its last in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 on Saturday–was not a “no-bearing” game after all.

With the Filipinos’ 96-75 victory over the Chinese, GILAS earned a slot for next year’s 2024 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament. This was made possible after the Philippine team finished with a ranking of No. 24 at the end of their campaign in the 17-24 classification phase of the World Cup.

For his part, House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez on Sunday lauded the Philippine basketball team for its win.

“We extend our heartfelt congratulations to Gilas Pilipinas for their stunning victory against China in the FIBA Basketball World Cup. This remarkable performance by our national team underscores their unwavering dedication, relentless hard work, and indomitable spirit, setting an inspiring example for all. This achievement fills our nation with immense pride, highlighting the extraordinary talent and teamwork of Filipino athletes,” he said.

After GILAS coach Chot Reyes stepped down and Team Philippines celebrated their momentous triumph over China, team officials learned that GILAS bagged the last of two slots reserved for Asia in the 2024 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

With a new coach coming in, the Philippines joins Lebanon as an Asian entry in the tournament, which is set from July 2 to 7 next year.

According to the FIBA rankings, the next best 16 placers in the World Cup that have not directly secured a place in the Olympics will go into qualifiers.

France, as a host nation, has already qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympics, with South Sudan, Japan, and Australia claiming three of the six slots available during the ongoing World Cup in Manila, Okinawa, and Jakarta.

Making it to the 2024 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament following the result of their games in the World Cup are Egypt, Angola, Côte d’Ivoire in the Africa zone, Georgia, Greece, Montenegro and Finland in the European zone, and New Zealand in the Oceania zone.

South Sudan ruled Group M of the classification round with a 3-2 win-loss record on Saturday. The Bright Stars ended a 10-year wait, when they demolished Angola, 101-78, as they celebrated their direct qualification to the 2024 Olympics

The Philippines tied with Angola and China, behind South Sudan with similar 1-4 win-loss records, with Gilas getting second place due to its -21 point differential. Angola, which finished with a -42 differential, and China (-91) fell out of contention.

Reyes said the team was glad to finally gift the Filipino crowd, who still trooped to the venue despite the stormy weather and disappointments from previous losses, a victory on their home turf.

“We reminded the players that no matter the typhoon, the weather, being essentially a no-bearing game, the crowd still came, Filipinos still came to watch. I told the players, ‘Let’s give them a present,’” said Reyes.

“Make sure we end this with a gift to the Filipino people for their continued belief and support for the team. Let’s dig deep,” he added.

Jordan Clarkson emerged as the vital cog in the victory, dropping 34 points in the contest – the most by any Filipino player in the World Cup, surpassing the 33 and 31 points of Mon Cruz in the 1978 edition and the 31 points of FIBA Hall of Famer Carlos ‘Big Difference’ Loyzaga in 1951.

More importantly, the win ended a nine-game drought for Gilas Pilipinas in the world stage with its last win dating back to the 2014 edition in Seville, Spain, where they – also under Reyes, but with Andray Blatche, Jimmy Alapag, and Jayson Castro showing the way – outlasted Senegal in overtime 81-79, also in the nationals’ last on-court appearance. With Rio N. Araja

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