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RUDE AWAKENING

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Gilas Pilipinas struggled against a tall and highly physical Turkey side as the national team suffered a lopsided 103-68 defeat in a tune up match early Thursday (Philippine time) at Abdi Ipekci Arena in Istanbul.

The game was the first for the Filipinos after a thorough nine-day training camp held in Karpinisi, Greece. Based on the outcome, coach Tab Baldwin and his squad have plenty of things to work on.

Naturalized player Andray Blatche led Gilas with 23 points, while Jayson Castro added 15 points, 13 of which came in the third frame when Turkey was already in control of the game.

The two teams will meet anew in Manila for another tune up match on July 1, several days before the 2016 Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) on July 5 to 10 at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City.

The two belong to separate brackets in the OQT, but may possibly meet in the crossover semifinal round. Gilas is in Group B with France and New Zealand while Turkey joins Canada and Senegal in Group A.

Only the champion in the OQT will earn a spot in the Olympics this August in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Led by a pair of 7-footers in Omar Asik of the New Orleans Pelicans and onetime NBA player Semih Erden, and 6-foot-8 forward Cedi Osman, Turkey dictated the tempo right at the opening period.

Erden, who had stints with the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Minnesota Timberwolves draft pick Osman, led the charge that allowed Turkey to take a 30-19 advantage.

The struggles of the national team continued in the second quarter as Baldwin’s wards failed to make a field goal in the first five minutes, with just Calvin Abueva and LA Tenorio scoring from free throws.

Abueva, the 6-foot-2 forward who battled the giants of Turkey, was able to contribute eight points, while Tenorio added six points. Jeff Chan and Ray Parks collected five points each.

Next stop for the Nationals is a pocket tournament in Bologna where it will play against the national teams of Italy, China and Canada. The four teams will be divided into two, with the winners playing in the finals while the losing teams dispute third place.

Italy will likewise host the OQT in Turin, while the Serbia will stage its OQT in Belgrade with the winners – just like in the Manila OQT – will advance in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The national team is scheduled to fly back to Manila on June 28.

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