Gilas gets extended stay in Riga after making FIBA OQT semis

Coach Tim Cone said Gilas is surprised they made the FIBA OQT semifinals. FIBA
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Coach Tim Cone admitted that Gilas Pilipinas anticipated an early exit from the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament and that they already booked a return trip to Pasay.

However, as fate would have it, Gilas, from expecting to be 0-2 in the group stages, is now two steps away from a place in the Paris Olympics.

"We've already bought all the tickets to leave [on Friday], so I guess we're going to have to move them back a little bit. That's how surprised we are to be [in the semifinals]," Cone said after Gilas clinched their place in the semis on Thursday.

Despite bowing to Georgia at the Arena Riga in their last Group A assignment, the final outcome was enough for Gilas to keep the semis spot as Georgia, needing to win by 19 or more to eliminate Gilas, only won by two and was ousted instead.

"It's the first time I felt good about losing," Cone continued.

Gilas, though, was in imminent danger of bowing out as Georgia went on a 16-0 run to start the game and led by 20, 40-20, early in the second quarter.

Georgia, however, slowly lost steam and even trailed at some points in the game during the second half before escaping with a win that seemed more like a defeat for them.

"I really just want to compliment our guys. They went down 20, and it could have been an easy panic time. They worked their way back into the game," Cone further said.

"One little streak here or there, we could have been down 30 and then we're going home, and we're using those tickets that we have [on Friday]. But they really showed their resilience."

Instead of flying home already, Gilas used the Friday break to gear up for Brazil in the Saturday semifinal.

Whatever happens, Gilas making the OQT semis alone already is a huge overachievement.

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