By JEREMIAH SEVILLA
Gilas Pilipinas missed a podium finish in the King Abdullah Cup 2021 after losing to Tunisia, 80-68, in the battle for third place early Monday (Philippine time) at the Prince Hamza Sport Hall in Amman, Jordan.
Even without naturalized big man Angelo Kouame, the young Filipino cagers nearly erased a 16-point deficit in the third quarter but eventually fell prey to the Tunisians’ late charge.
Gilas settled for fourth place with an overall 2-4 record in the five-team invitational tournament that was supposed to serve as the team’s tune-up for the FIBA Asia Cup which was postponed to July 2022 due to the rising COVID-19 cases in host country Indonesia.
Carl Tamayo spearheaded the Tab Baldwin-coached team with 14 points and six rebounds while SJ Belangel scored 12 markers to go with four assists, a board and a steal.
Kouame was not fielded in the game as Gilas failed to replicate its 74-73 overtime victory over Tunisia last Friday wherein the 6-foot-10 Ivorian-Filipino came through with a game-saving block after Thirdy Ravena split his free throws.
Staring at a 48-64 disadvantage late in the third frame, the Nationals went on an 18-5 tear capped by Ravena’s fadeaway jumper to threaten within 66-69 with 4:23 remaining.
However, the Philippines lost steam down the stretch as Jawher Jawadi and Omar Abada fueled Tunisia’s finishing 11-2 run.
Jawadi and Abada led the African side with 21 and 19 points, respectively, on top of a combined eight assists and seven rebounds.
Gilas actually had a strong start in the pocket tourney, cruising to three straight wins following a 73-60 opening loss to Egypt, although its 90-63 rout of Jordan B was not included in the standings.
The Filipinos’ meltdown started with an 84-72 defeat to Jordan A in the last elimination round game which was followed by another setback to the same Jordanian squad, 84-74, in the semifinals.
TUNISIA 80 – Jawadi 21, Abada 19, Ghayaza 9, Lahiani 9, Gannouni 8, Bouallegue 6, Marnamoui 2, Yahia 2, Chihi 2, Addami 2
PHILIPPINES 68 – Tamayo 14, Belangel 12, Go 9, Ramos 7, Baltazar 6, Ravena 6, Suerte 6, Abarrientos 3, Ma. Nieto 3, Ildefonso 2, Navarro 0, Mi. Nieto 0, Chiu 0, Heading 0.