Philippines basketball put a scare into France in Olympics qualifying opener, but fall short

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The Philippines' Andray Blache attempts a shot against France in their Olympic qualifying contest on tuesday night. Bullit Marquez / AP Photo / July 5, 2016

The Philippines national basketball team brought a tough challenge to France on Tuesday night in their Olympic basketball qualifying opener, but ultimately fell short 93-84 against a well-stocked side featuring NBA stars like Tony Parker and Boris Diaw.

The Gilas Pilipinas went into half-time down merely two, on the strength of strong three-point shooting and the active inside presence of naturalised player Andray Blatche. Despite flurries they could not mount a meaningful comeback in the second half after France pulled away in the third quarter.

The Philippines were aggressive early, with shotmakers like Terrence Romeo heaving audaciously as, playing on home court in Manila, they were undeterred by the prospect of a French side ranked fifth in the world by Fiba.

The Philippines are hosting one of three Olympic qualifying mini tournaments to determine the final three places in Rio. Six teams at each of the three venues are divided into three-team groups from which they will be seeded into the semi-final stages. Only the winner at each site will qualify for the Olympics.

The Philippines will get a chance to keep their hopes alive when they play New Zealand next. Canada, Turkey and Senegal lie on the other side of the bracket, with Canada defeating the Turkish team 77-69 in their opener on Tuesday night as well. The other two tournaments are in Belgrade, Serbia and Turin, Italy.

In their loss, the Philippines struggled to contain San Antonio Spurs guard Parker, who finished with 21 points.

They showed they could go long stretches with France shot-for-shot, however. They made 11-of-28 three-point attempts, good for a solid 39.3 percentage. Romeo had 19 points on 5-of-14 shooting. Stalwart point guard Jayson Castro had 14 points and three assists, and former NBA big man Blatche added 21 points and eight rebounds.

The French, though, also led by CSKA Moscow’s Nando de Colo scoring 27 points and Diaw’s nine-point, nine-rebound effort, went on a 14-4 run in the middle of the third quarter that the Filipinos simply never really recovered from.

Troy Rosario, Castro and Gabe Norwood hit shots in succession as the fourth quarter wound down to get the Philippines back within four, but Diaw and Kim Tillie overwhelmed them inside late.

The Gilas will try their hand again on Wendesday night at 5pm UAE time (9pm local Manila time) against the New Zealanders.

Tony Parker: We had to dig deep to beat the Philippines

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French national basketball team bested Gilas Pilipinas 93-84 in their first game at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT), but it definitely wasn’t the demolition job that some expected before the game. Photo: CNN

The French national basketball team bested Gilas Pilipinas 93-84 in their first game at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT), but it definitely wasn’t the demolition job that some expected before the game.

After the game, NBA guard Tony Parker only had good things to say about the Philippine team.

“I want to congratulate the Philippines. They had a great game, they were on fire in the first half,” said Parker. “You have to give a lot of credit to them, you can be proud about the team. They played a great game.”

“They made it tough on us, and we had to dig deep to get the W,” Parker added.

“They were pretty good, they were very aggressive,” said Parker on his counterparts. “They were very aggressive going to the basket and creating shots for their teammates.” – The National / CNN

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