For a moment, it looked like Gilas Pilipinas had it, but only to watch it slip away when it mattered most in a game it badly needed against a regional rival in Iran before a stunned hometown crowd.
“Well, of course we’re disappointed, not just about the match but for the whole window. We knew Iran was a tough team even without (Nikkha) Bahrami and (Hamed) Haddadi. We knew that they were a big team,” national team head coach Yeng Guiao said during the post-game press conference Monday night.
“For a while there we thought we had a really good chance of winning the game. For the most part of the game we were holding on to a small lead and we were on the verge of breaking out. It just did not happen and towards the endgame,” Guiao added.
Guiao had the country’s cream of the crop at his disposal but talent alone won’t cut it and Gilas was reminded about it in a painful way.
“I felt it’s a lack of maturity for our team. It’s not as cohesive as we want it to be at this point. The guys tried their best. I knew and I saw that they were giving their best, but the crucial point in the game, we made some bad decisions and some crucial breaks,” Guiao said.
Down by one, the Philippines wound up with two misses and two bad passes in the last 30 seconds of the game as Iran came away with a 78-70 win.
Guiao also pointed out the huge disparity from the free throw line where the Iranians attempted 33 to the Filipinos’ 18 which the fiery coach said to be a product of Gilas not yet used to the physicality in the international stage.
“I think Marcio fouled one player on the sideline while he was trying to steal the ball, and we were just behind by one point at that point. So again, the same situation against Kazakhstan. We gave up too many free throws again. 33. That’s the problem, I guess, we’re not really accustomed to the officiating,” he said.
“We don’t know how certain calls are made in the international game. But that’s something we should be responsibile for. We should be able to adapt to that. So I think that was very crucial 33 free throws again. Against Kazakhstan we gave up 34 free throws and only 18 for us.”
Despite going 0-2 in its home stand, hope is still not lost for Gilas, which slipped to fourth place in Group F with a 5-5 record behind Australia, Iran and Japan.
“I still feel, this is a good team. I still feel this is a strong team. I still feel if the chances are slimmer going to the World Cup but I still feel we can do it.”
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