Gilas dominated by Lebanon, but takes important lessons along the way

Gilas Pilipinas 87 – Lebanon 106

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For the second straight game, Gilas Pilipinas was walloped by their opponent in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup, this time falling to the host country which scored a wire-to-wire win.

Lebanon scored the game’s first seven points, and went on to build a 29-18 first quarter lead. The squad never looked back from that juncture as Gilas unraveled.

The veteran Fadi El-Khatib put on an amazing showcase again in front of the partisan crowd, dropping 36 points on 13-of-19 shooting while adding six rebounds and eight assists.

Naturalized big Norvel Pelle gave Gilas a nightmare all night with his rim-protecting and shot-blocking ability. He came just a block short of a triple-double as he had 23 points, 13 boards, and nine blocks.

Terrence Romeo led Gilas with 19 points. June Mar Fajardo started for the first time in the absence of Christian Standhardinger who already flew to Malaysia for the 2017 SEA Games. Fajardo added 13 markers. Jayson Castro also finished with the same output and dished out seven assists.

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The loss puts Gilas in the battle for seventh place against Jordan. No matter what the result of that game, it will the be the worst finish for the Philippines in the Asian championship since 2009.

But then again, with the changes in the FIBA competition system and calendar, the Asia Cup is now just a mere once-in-four-years tournament wherein the best squads across the Asia-Pacific meet. It does not grant the winners anything nor does it qualify them for something bigger.

In another world where the continental championships are still the basis for finding which teams advance to the FIBA Basketball World Cup or the Olympics, Gilas would have sent a full-strength team which had months of preparation to go all out. On paper, any full-strength Gilas team would easily be in the top four of this zone.

But it wasn’t the case in Lebanon. Their lack of preparation was exposed against the home country which obviously prepared to deliver in front of their fans. Even in their prior loss to Korea, Gilas had problems. Having 12 days of time together will not make the cut competition-wise, and yet just a day after that loss to Korea, Gilas enjoyed their time together off the court. Head coach Chot Reyes reminded them of “the bigger picture” which is the World Cup qualifiers.

The loss to Lebanon showed Gilas is not yet where it wants to be as a team. And yet, the Philippines is already among the top eight squads in this tournament. The qualifiers will send seven Asia-Pacific nations to the World Cup, and if the FIBA Asia Cup is a gauge, then the Philippines already looks like a solid contender.

What more once they pick up lessons from this tourney, have their complete team back come November, and have more time to prepare? It will only get better from here.

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Photos from FIBA.com

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