As the buzzer sounded on France’s victory, 93-84, over the Philippines in the FIBA Olympic Qualifiers at the Mall of Asia arena, Terrence Romeo bowed his head down out of disappointment.
A hand reached for him– it was French forward Mickael Gelabale congratulating him. All of a sudden, as pleasantries were being exchanged by the Gilas spitfire guard and the French veteran, another hand tried to reach the guard– then another, and another. It was a large contingent of ‘Les Bleus’, crowding and trying to congratulate him. It was the first thing most of the French players did after the buzzer.
Romeo’s earned their respect.
“They played really well.” said France and San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker of the Gilas guards.
Romeo finished with 19 points on a 3-of-5 shooting along with a couple of ankle-breakers on Gelabale and Florent Pietrus. Romeo’s backcourtmate, Jayson Castro William, had 14 points and three assists. The quick duo was a big factor in Gilas Pilipinas going blow-for-blow with France. Along with naturalized center Andray Blatche, Romeo and Castro were also a big key to why the Philippines led by double digits early in the game against World #5 ranked France and their plethora of international basketball stars.
“Philippines played a great game. We knew before the game that it will be something special for them,” said France head coach Vincent Collet.
“We were expecting their guards and, despite that, we couldn’t handle it in the first quarter. Defensively, we were not ready in the beginning and they took advantage to take the lead.” added Collet.
Castro William echoed Collet’s analysis: “We excecuted our plays very well especially in the first quarter. Our game plan, yun nga, nagwo-work.”
After the Philippines led big early, however, France came back to take the lead just before halftime. “And then all of a sudden nawala composure namin. Di namin na-excecute plays, especially in the halfcourt kaya ayun.” Castro William said.
Not wanting to go silently into the night, however, Gilas strung together a run in the fourth quarter, courtesy again of the guards, courtesy of Romeo, Castro William, and, this time, Ryan Reyes who hit a three pointer to start the fourth period rally. The rally reduced the gap to as small as four points with 3:41 to go. It would be the Filipinos’ last hurrah, though, as Gilas could only score three more points.
“They were pretty good. They were agressive, they tried to make stuff happen. And they were very agressive going to the basket and creating shots for their teammates.” Parker praised of the guards.
“It stings a little bit because we’ve proven that we had a chance in this game,” said Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin.
“We were up by ten in the middle of the 2nd (quarter) and we lost our composure then we turned the ball over.” Castro William said.
“We need to take care of the ball next time. 18 turnovers eh.” the two-time best point guard in Asia added.
“It was a pretty solid performance for Gilas and if we could just play at this level a lot more we can start turning in good results in games like this,” Baldwin said to sum up Gilas’ previous game.
The national team mentor put things in perspective and opted to move on: “24 hours takes care of a lot of things in life. Putting this loss behind us and with the importance of tomorrow’s game, we should do everything that we need.”
“I don’t think the coaching staff needs to have a motivational talk. We understand the task and I’m pretty confident our guys are capable of doing that.” said Baldwin, proving that even after bowing down in disappointment, Gilas can still look up and fight yet again.