Coming off an upset from Serbia, Gilas Pilipinas wanted to make a comeback and keep Filipino hopes alive in their bout against the Dominican Republic (DR). Prior to the game, both teams were standing on a 0-1 record and were on the verge of being eliminated from Olympic contention.
Sadly, the lack of firepower brought by Dwight Ramos’ absence put more pressure on coach Tab Baldwin’s lineup, resulting in a shocking gap of 27 points. As it is, the Gilas’ dreams of making an Olympic appearance ended in a bloodbath, as their devastating loss capped the game at 94-67.
Baldwin called Jordan Heading to step up, however, a 16-point game was not enough to overcome the hungrier DR as Victor Liz and Gelvis Solano swept the Gilas off their feet in a showcase of veteran skill.
Pushing the pace
With the Philippines being the lower rating team in the bracket, Baldwin wanted a good underdog story for the fans. He made another lineup change, with Kai Sotto manning the paint, Justine Baltazar, and William Navarro at the wings, while SJ Belangel, and Jordan Heading as the backcourt. Coming off a 17-point game, Baldwin decided to play Angelo Kouame off the bench.
Early in the game, the DR was out for blood—running a full-court press on Gilas Pilipinas. For the first two minutes of the bout, it was the DR setting the pace, with Thomas Nuñez doing it all on both ends of the floor backed by Gelvis Solano’s big moves in the paint, which built a 5-0 lead. Surprisingly, Gilas started life with a pair of 3-point baskets from RJ Abarrientos and Baltazar, then it was all back and forth for both teams. With the DR’s aggressive type of play, the Philippines was just playing catch up, awarding them a couple of free throws. DR’s veteran baller Liz and Nuñez were setting the pace of the game with their chemistry on the floor. And when Baldwin had enough he gave a pep talk to the team saying “We are not staying in front of them defensively. Don’t jump on fakes…this is an offensive team”. From then it was the frontcourt of Kouame, Carl Tamayo, and Isaac Go that kept the game close, ending the first quarter at 23-22.
As they approached the second quarter, Baldwin finally got into these young bloods as they sailed with the DR challenging them in a fire on fire battle. Baltazar’s inside the paint moves and Heading’s big three point basket shocked the DR’s coach Melvyn Lopez, making him transition to a 2-2-1 zone defense. Noticing this change, Baldwin reminded his players “You gotta move the ball…we gotta get to the free-throw line….. we gotta go strong in the post.” Sotto played by ear and made a ferocious block against Liz which set the tone for Heading’s yet another three point basket. Sadly, Liz was just a fearless magician and was able to get off a three-point basket to end the quarter, 41-39.
Heading into the third quarter, the Philippines was looking to keep up their groove following a strong first half display as Kouame spearheaded the offensive distribution for the Philippines with a slam dunk coming from a pick-and-roll play led by Abarrientos. The Dominicans were answering right back though, as Liz converted four unanswered fastbreak points, 49-47.
Baldwin decided to stop the increasing momentum of the DR by pairing Sotto and Kouame together for added pressure in the paint. However, Gilas’ perimeter guards had trouble rotating the ball into the hands of the twin towers resulting in early and contested shots. The Dominicans capitalized on this with easy transition buckets, outscoring the Philippines 26-10 in the third quarter alone en route into the final frame with a 12-point lead, 63-51.
With the Dominicans in command, they continued to widen the gap between the Philippines with a 12-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter. Abarrientos tried to stop the bleeding with a go-ahead triple to cut the deficit to 21, but Liz and Solano proved to be too much to handle for Gilas as they torched them with a combined 44 points. Michael Cuevas iced the game with a trifecta from the wing, giving DR a 94-67 win over the Philippines.
The Dominican Republic advances to the semi-finals with this victory where they will face Italy. Liz shone brightly as the top scorer with 23 points, while Solano chipped in 20 points for his team.
Despite the loss, Heading recorded a team-high 16 points with four treys while Kouame and Sotto followed up with 10 and eight points, respectively.
“We didn’t stand up to the pressure. It was a very disappointing second half for us,” said coach Baldwin. The Philippines were “outplayed, outcoached, and outgunned” following the disappointing loss. “We have many things to learn from this,” Baldwin added.
Capping their Olympic Qualifying Tournament with a 0-2 record, Gilas Pilipinas will have the chance to bounce back in the FIBA Asia Cup to be held in Indonesia this coming August.
Gilas 67 – Heading 16, Kouame 10, Sotto 8, Abarrientos 6, Belangel 6, Navarro 6, Baltazar 5, Tamayo 5, Nieto 4, Go 1
Dominican Republic 94 – Liz 23, Solano 21, Cuevas 20, Nuñez 13, Francis 5, Araujo 4, Rojas 4, Mendoza 2, Santos 2