A tough and gritty fight from the all-cadet Gilas Pilipinas just couldn’t overcome World No. 5 Serbia, 83-76, in their opening game at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia on Wednesday (Thursday, Manila time).
An 8-point run by NBA player Boban Marjanovic would banish the upset-seeking Filipinos in the final four minutes of the game.
Despite going in the game as heavy underdogs, the young Gilas team played at pace with the seasoned veterans.
Gilas remained breathing down the necks of the Serbians until late in the fourth quarter.
The Nationals even took the lead with 3:50 left in the fourth quarter, 74-73 off of an RJ Abarrientos bucket.
However, Marjanovic’s run would help the home team come away with the win.
Ange Kouame led all scorers for Gilas Pilipinas with 17 points while Jordan Heading scattered 13 points off of four three pointers.
Marjanovic led Serbia with 25 markers and 10 rebounds.
Gilas plays their second game in the OQT on Thursday (early Friday morning, Manila) against the Dominican Republic.
This is a must-win game for Gilas if they want to move on to the knockout stage of the tournament.
Should they win Thursday, they will face the winner of the Italy-Puerto Rico game in the knockout semifinals.