Gilas falls short vs. Dominican Republic in historic World Cup opener

Karl-Anthony Towns pounced on the Gilas bigs' foul troubles to lead the Dominican Republic to the win. Kennelf Monteza
By John Rhey Piamonte

BOCAUE, Bulacan—Gilas Pilipinas ran out of steam late game and succumbed to world no. 23 Dominican Republic, 87-81, in a hard-fought Group A match of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, held at the jampacked Philippine Arena, Friday night. 

In front of a historic 38,115 crowd, Jordan Clarkson put the home team on his back dialing in a game-high 28 points, alongside seven rebounds and seven assists. 

But a crucial offensive foul call at the 03:30 mark of the last quarter caused the Utah Jazz star to foul out of the game, depriving Gilas of close-out with its main gunner. 

The Dominican Republic then went on a pivotal scoring spree in the dying minutes of the game, that left the Philippines in the dust. 

Karl-Anthony Towns bannered the Dominicans' surge as he ended with a double-double performance, finishing with 26 points and 10 boards across his name. 

"They came out and played that way. I respect them tremendously. We just stayed disciplined and found a way to win." Towns said in the post-game interview. 

"It's the first game of the World Cup. Any game here is gonna be tough so being able to get a win in any certain circumstances is always great," Towns added. 

Missing the services of its other NBA mainstays Al Horford and Chris Duarte, the Dominican Republic rode on Towns right at the get-go as the All-Star barged in six early points to secure a 22-18 advantage at the end of the first quarter. 

After a dismal 2/8 shooting on the field in the opening salvo, Jordan Clarkson went berserk and scored 14 huge points in the second quarter alone, including a seven-straight personal run that kept Gilas within striking distance. 

Gilas ended the first half strong with a Rhenz Abando two-handed jam that ignited the crowd and tied the game at 42-all. 

It was a back-and-forth third quarter as both teams traded haymakers with each other but a LJ Figueroa layup turned the tide in favor of the Dominican Republic, 65-64. 

With Clarkson sitting out the remaining of the fourth, the front court of June Mar Fajardo and AJ Edu stepped up to cut the lead of Dominican to single possession, 81-79. 

However, a string of defensive miscues pushed Gilas on the brink and a layup from guard Jean Montero sealed the deal for the Dominicans.

Six-time PBA MVP Fajardo ended with 16 big points for Gilas while Edu had seven markers. 

"We have one day to prepare for Angola. We still have a chance. Hopefully, we get the job done," Gilas team captain Japeth Aguilar uttered. 

Philippine now shifts its focus against Angola as it looks to book win number one this Sunday, August 27 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Box Scores:

Dominican Republic 87—Towns 26, Liz 18, Feliz 12, Montero 6, Delgado 6, Peña 5, Vargas 5, Figueroa 5, Mendoza 2, Quiñones 2, Solano 0.

Philippines 81—Clarkson 28, Fajardo 16, Ramos 13, Edu 7, Pogoy 6, Thompson 5, Ravena 2, Abando 2, Aguilar 2, Sotto 0, Malonzo 0.

Quarters: 22-18; 42-all; 66-64; 87-81.

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