Gilas remains winless, falters against Angola in Group A thriller

Angola showed might again against Gilas. Kennelf Monteza
By John Rhey Piamonte

QUEZON CITY–A staggering showcase of poise and confidence led the gutsy Angola team to an 80-70 upset win against the home nation Philippines in their crucial Group A matchup at the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, at the jam-packed Smart Araneta Coliseum Sunday night. 

Despite facing a homecourt disadvantage, Angola managed to perform at its very best, smothering Gilas down the paint and above the arc in the game that pushed Gilas to the brink of elimination. 

Angola outran the Philippines with 17 fast-break points compared to Gilas’ four and capitalized on scoring 14 second-chance points that played dividends in the decider. 

It was the same struggle for the Gilas Pilipinas as the team was once again saddled by a pile of turnovers, committing 15 errors that resulted in 14 huge points for Angola. 

The Chot Reyes-led Gilas team had a well-distributed start as six players scored in the opening salvo with Clarkson, RR Pogoy, and CJ Perez spearheading the home squad to an early 19-12 advantage. 

Shrugging off the pressure from the loud Filipino crowd, Angola was able to flip the switch late in the second salvo as the team waxed hot from rainbow country, and with the defensive efforts of forward Jilson Bango on Gilas main gunner Jordan Clarkson limiting the NBA star to just seven points, in 3-of-11 shooting clip in the first half. 

After a rough start, Clarkson turned things around in the third quarter, pouring in 10 markers but a string of turnovers that led to Angola’s transition layups still kept the Philippines trailing by four heading into the final frame, 56-52.

The Time Nacional went on a shooting spree at the start of the fourth with the trio of Gerson Domingos, Gerson Goncalves, and Bruno Fernando igniting the 16-3 run that propelled Angola to its biggest lead of the game, 73-57.

In a typical Gilas fashion, the National team refused to surrender as its young front court sparked a late-game comeback with EJ Edu churning out an and-1 play that was followed suit by Kai Sotto’s two made free throws to cut the lead to just five, 68-73.

But Angola kept its composure down the stretch and kept Gilas at bay as Domingos put on the finishing blow, knocking down the dagger triple to extend the advantage back to eight, 76-68 with 45 seconds remaining in the game. 

Guard Goncalves topped the scoring department for Angola after nailing 17 points while Domingos added 15 big markers, alongside six rebounds.

Clarkson was the lone Gilas player in double-digits, finishing with 21 points, in a dismal seven-of-22 shooting night.

After a hot start, Perez and Pogoy were limited to just seven and eight points by the suffocating defense of the guest team.

Angola successfully pulled off a repeat of its 84-81 beatdown of the Philippines in the 2019 FIBA World Cup in Foshan, China wherein the Coach Yeng Guiao-headed Philippine team went home winless.

With only two teams advancing in the second round of the group phase, Gilas looks to keep its tournament lives alive and secure a ticket in their bout against the world no. 10 Italy, who also earlier suffered a heartbreaking loss against the Dominican Republic. The Group A matchups will conclude this Tuesday, still at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. 

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