MANILA — The last chance for Gilas Pilipinas to earn a ticket to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games waned after it absorbed an 89-80 loss to New Zealand on Wednesday night in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament at the MOA Arena.
Playing catch game almost throughout, the Filipino dribblers sent the huge crowd to its feet after rallying to move to just 60-62 deficit at the start of the fourth quarter.
New Zealand, however, bounced back quickly and ballooned the margin to 12 points, 80-65, behind the Webster brothers – Tai Jack and Corey, to advance in the knockout semifinals.
Andre Blatche, the Philippines’ naturalized player, scored 30 points but he hardly got support from local players.
The Webster brothers lead New Zealand with Tai Jack scoring 25 markers.
New Zealand will face next France which defeated the Philippines, 93-84, last Tuesday night with the winner to face the winner between Senegal and Turkey in the do-or-die cross-over semifinals.
In the first game, Team Canada outfought Team Senegal in a defensive battle, grinding out a 58-55 win to advance to the crossover knockout semifinals with 2-0 win-loss record.
The Canadians stood on shaky ground at the finish but pulled all the stops that they needed to make to squeeze through all the way to the semis either against Gilas Pilipinas or New Zealand.
“It was a great game especially when you love defense. It was a well-fought game,” said Canada coach Jay Triano.
Offensively, Canada’s guard crew of Cory Joseph Melvin Ejim and Tyler Ennis went to work as the Canadians overcame the Senegalese’s upset bid and muted the home crowd that cheered for the FIBA Afro team.
“We aren’t expecting that. That kind of kept us in the game,” said Senegal main man Maurice Ndour of the cheers from the Filipinos.
Senegal and Turkey dispute the other semis spot from Group A in a do-or-die duel at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the same Pasay City playing venue.
The Canadians, third placers in the last FIBA Americas, and the Senegalese, fourth placers in the recent FIBA Afro championship, engaged in a battle, with the former prevailing as Senegal guard Clevin Finley Hannah missed crucial three-pointers in the final minute.
Joseph, Ejim and Ennis all scored in double figures and nailed crucial buckets for Team Canada in the payoff period.
Joseph came through with 13 points, five rebounds, two assists and one steal, Ennis contributed 12 markers and three dish-offs while Ejim chipped in 11 points and eight boards.
Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson scored only seven points but grabbed 10 rebounds versus taller Senegalese rivals including 7-foot-1 Hamady Ndiaye, former KIA import in the PBA.
Maurice Ndour and Hannah fired 16 and 13 points for Senegal but failed deliver in the crunch.
At 55-58, the Senagelese had one last chance to force overtime but Hannah missed a three-pointer at the buzzer. Jelly Musico/PNA/northboundasia.com