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Gilas Pilipinas caps its Euro sortie with plenty of lessons

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GILAS PILIPINAS — FIBA

GILAS PILIPINAS capped its pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) sortie in Europe without a win in two games but with plenty of lessons to bring to the actual battle.

The Nationals took the fight to world No. 15 Poland in Saturday night’s friendly in the Polish city of Sosnowiec, threatening until the very last second before yielding a close 82-80 loss.

Justin Brownlee and Dwight Ramos stepped up to the plate on offense with 30 and 16 points, respectively, as the Filipinos rallied from as many as 14 markers in the fourth only to run out of time to complete the steal.

The tough stand against a side that sits 22 places higher in the FIBA world rankings and boasting the presence of NBA player Jeremy Sochan came two days after a 73-84 defeat to No. 24 Turkey in an earlier tuneup in Istanbul.

The Nationals hope the twin gigs on the road against tough Euro squads have sharpened and equipped them better as they proceed to Latvia for the July 2 to 7 FIBA OQT against the host Latvians and Georgia.

“Now the real fight begins,” Gilas coach Tim Cone posted on Twitter as they flew out of Poland and into the Latvian capital of Riga.

In friendly No. 2 before a loud crowd of Filipino OFWs, the Nationals aimed the upset axe against the host Polish.

Mr. Cone’s charges controlled the game early, 23-16, before the home side countered with a 25-15 exchange in the second canto to get ahead, 41-38.

It was only a two-point contest at the start of the fourth until Poland unleashed a 9-0 outburst to create separation, 67-56, then extending it to 76-62.

During that period, Mr. Cone had to give the Nationals some tongue-lashing at the bench, to reawaken them.

“This is b___t! We are not even trying,” the multi-titled Mr. Cone was caught on camera shouting at his team. “Get your heads out there and let’s start playing.”

That pushed a button on Gilas.

With Mr. Ramos in takeover mode, the Pinoy dribblers outscored their rivals in the final 2:37, 8-0, to pull to within 80-82 with 2.3 seconds left. Poland wisely ran out the clock to escape with this rather surprisingly close win after a dominant 88-59 crushing of Asia-Oceania powerhouse New Zealand a couple of nights before. — Olmin Leyba

The Scores:

Poland 82 — Sokolowski 21, Balcerowski 10, Pluta 8, Sochan 8, Ponitka 7, Zyskowski 6, Dziewa 5, Milicic 5, Michalak 5, Niziol 5, Mazurczak 2, Zolnierowicz 0.

Philippines 80 — Brownlee 30, Ramos 16, Fajardo 10, Sotto 8, Newsome 6, Aguilar 4, Tamayo 4, Perez 2, Oftana 0, Quiambao 0.

Quarters: 16-23, 41-38, 58-56, 82-80.

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