Philippines' forward Gabe Norwood (L) vies with Croatia's guard Krunoslav Simon during the 2014 FIBA World basketball championships Group B match at the Palacio Municipal de Deportes in Sevilla on Saturday. Photo by Pierre-Philippe Marcou, Agence France-Presse
MANILA, Philippines – Malacanang on Sunday commended the Gilas Pilipinas national basketball team for their inspirational performance against a higher-ranked Croatian squad in their first game of the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Seville, Spain.
Gilas went down by double-digits in the first half but behind a solid showing from naturalized center Andray Blatche and hot three-point shooting, they rallied in the fourth quarter and managed to force overtime.
Croatia still pulled out an 81-78 victory but Gilas clearly showed that they belonged in the world stage after coming close to a monumental upset.
"Nakiisa ang Pangulo sa buong sambayanan sa paghahatid ng pagbati sa ipinakitang galing at determinasyon ng ating mga manlalaro ng Gilas Pilipinas sa kanilang laban kontra Croatia," the Palace said in a statement.
"Sa kabila ng matinding pagsubok at hamon, nagawa ng Pilipinas na lumaban hanggang huli, at umani sila ng paghanga sa mundo ng basketball."
President Benigno Aquino III previously said that Gilas' stint in the FIBA World Cup – the nation's first appearance in 38 years – was an opportunity to showcase the Filipinos' talent in the world stage.
Aquino also said the players' heart, ambition, and determination to succeed will power Gilas in its future games, starting with their showdown against Greece early Monday morning.
"Sa mga manlalaro ng Gilas Pilipinas, kabilang na ang coaching staff, nasa likod niyo ang buong sambayanang Pilipino at sama-sama ang ating panalangin sa inyong pakikiharap sa mga pinakamahusay na basketbolista sa buong mundo," the Palace also said.