It was a lofty goal for Batang Gilas to begin with.
But even in crashing out of its title bid in the Fiba Asia U18 tournament in Thailand after a 77-43 drubbing at the hands of powerhouse Australia, the Philippines can still embrace the optimism spurred by a team that has surprised pundits.
Kai Sotto, AJ Edu and the rest of the Batang Gilas, according to various Fiba reports, are the future of Philippine basketball.
The road to that future took a minor bump Friday night when Australia took the fight out of the Philippines in the second period to forge a title showdown against New Zealand, which edged China, 87-82 in the other semifinal bracket.
Australia scored the first eight points in the second period after a tight opening quarter before Callum Dalton nailed a couple of triples and Kody Stattman joined in the scoring fray to produce a strong finishing kick to the first half and build a 44-20 cushion.
The Philippines and China will duel for the bronze medal on Saturday, before the Australia-New Zealand showdown. Batang Gilas drubbed the Chinese, 73-63, in the group stage.
“We will still do our best to get to the podium and make our country proud,” Ildefonso, the team skipper, told the Inquirer.
Batang Gilas, led by Sotto and Edu, lost for the first time in the tournament, ending their title hopes.
“If you notice, both finalists are the new countries in the Asian zone,” said current Gilas Pilipinas assistant Jong Uichico. “They are really a cut above the rest in the tournament. So reaching the semifinals and making it to the World Cup is a huge achievement for Batang Gilas.”
Australia and New Zealand used to compete in the Oceania zone before a Fiba restructure put both countries in Asia.
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