“The President joins the nation in praising the skill and determination of our Gilas Pilipinas players in their fight against Croatia. Despite facing intense challenge, the Philippine team fought to the end and earned admiration from the world of basketball,” Coloma said in Filipino in an interview with state-run DZRB.
The Philippine basketball squad nearly pulled off an upset victory against Croatia in the opening FIBA game. Gilas Pilipinas performed strongly in the thrilling match against the European team but eventually suffered an 81-78 overtime defeat.
Coloma said the President acknowledged that the entry of the Philippine basketball team to the FIBA World Cup after 36 years is a good opportunity to display the talent and no-surrender attitude of Filipinos in the face of challenges.
“To the Gilas Pilipinas players and the coaching staff, the entire Filipino nation is behind you. We will continue to pray for you as you face the best basketball players in the world,” Coloma said.
“Let’s shout our battlecry: Laban Pilipinas! Puso!” the Palace official added.
“The biggest factor really in the game against Croatia was Andray Blatche,” said Guiao, who was the national team coach in 2009 in the FIBA Asia Championship in Tianjin, China.
“He proved that the coaching staff, led by Coach Chot Reyes, was right in its decision to have him as our naturalized player. In short, the Philippines made the right choice to naturalize Blatche.”
But for Gilas to win a game in the preliminary round, Guiao said the 6-foot-11 Blatche and other members of Gilas should raise their level of game a notch higher.
“However, he needs to play that way every game to open up our shooters. If he continues to play that way, who knows? We’ll still play four teams, and it’s possible to win one or two games,” added Guiao.
Blatche, previously of the Brooklyn Nets, collected 28 points and 12 rebounds in a 78-81 overtime defeat to Croatia last Saturday at the Palacio Municipal de Deportes San Pablo.
Blatche’s aggressiveness forced the Croatians to double team him at the post, thus opening up Gilas Pilipinas shooters like Jeff Chan, who fired 17 points in an impressive 4-of-6 shooting from three-point territory.