DUBAI -- The Philippines fell prey to a taller, longer Angolan squad, 72-82, in the opener of the FIBA U17 World Championship Friday at the Al Ahli Arena.
With the Angolans asserting their dominance in the shaded lane, the Batang Gilas had a jittery start, easily allowing the 11-time African champions to batter them on both ends and spoil their debut in the world stage.
Jolo Mendoza, the Most Valuable Player in the Southeast Asian region, started out slow while Matt and Mike Nieto were completely outplayed by the Angolans, who paraded at least three 6-foot-9 rim protectors and a versatile power forward in 6-foot-6 Joao Jungo.
Jungo delivered 28 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks while converting 12 of his 17 attempts in the paint to underscore the Africans strength.
"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know the story of the game," said Batang Gilas headcoach Jamike Jarin, putting emphasis on the vast difference in the rebounding department dominated by the Angolans, 70-64.
"In this game, we got outrebounded. We have us so many rebounds which they converted into points. Angola used its height advantage to the fullest. I'm just glad that we still managed to keep the game close despite our disadvantage."
Aside from rebounding, Batang Gilas' rusty shooting also doomed their chances.
"Because of their length, we were not able to make our shots," Jarin said. "But I'm not making an excuse. We also missed some open shots. We need to convert 12 to 15 three pointers to be competitive. But today, we only made five and that hurt our chances."
Mendoza finished with a team-high 16 points on a miserable 7 for 26 shooting from the field while Jollo Go and Diego Dario chipped in 13 and 12 markers, respectively for the Batang Gilas, who vowed to come up with a better shooting in their battle against Greece late Saturday.
"We had a jittery start and we couldn't convert a basket. I guess that affected our confidence the rest of the game," said Mendoza, a vital cog in the juniors squad of Ateneo de Manila University.
But the Batang Gilas didn't bow without putting up a fight.
Mendoza regained his shooting touch while Desiderio stepped up on the defensive end to silence Jungo as well as Angolan big men Valdir Manuel and Avelino Do, enabling the Filipinos to wrest the lead, 19-18, in the opening minutes of the second canto.
The Angolans playmaker Eric Amandio and Edimilson Miranda, mounted an uprising and erected a 14-point edge, 55-41, midway in the third period.
Though the Batang Gilas managed to close the gap to within seven, 70-77, Angolans knocked down three consecutive free throws, including a slam by Jungo to seal the win.
"We missed our shots and we made mistakes," Jarin said. "But again, these kids are all 17-year olds. They are allowed to make mistakes. And this World Championship is giving them an experience they will cherish for the rest of their lives."
Angola 82 -- Jungo 26, Amandio 17, Miranda 12, V. Manuel 10, Do 6, Valente 5, De Sousa 4, Fernando 2, D. Manuel 0.
Philippines 72 -- Mendoza 16, Go 13, Dario 12, Desiderio 9, Dela Cruz 6, Ma. Nieto 6, Escoto 4, Mi. Nieto 2, Navarro 2, Padilla 2, Abadeza 0, Panlilio 0.
Quarterscores: 15-12; 41-32; 61-52; 82-72