Gilas forward Gabe Norwood vies during the 2014 FIBA World basketball championships Group B match against Puerto Rico at the Palacio Municipal de Deportes in Sevilla. Photo by Cristina Quicler, Agence France-Presse
SEVILLE, Spain -- The Philippine national team is gearing up for its final game in the group round of the FIBA World Cup of Basketball on Thursday.
But Gilas Pilipinas is facing a formidable challenge from Senegal, which has been exceeding expectations as of late.
The 41st-ranked Senegal came into the tournament with the lowest rating among the teams in Group B, but has scored two victories in four starts.
Gilas, on the other hand, remains winless after four matches, but came close to beating three teams: Croatia, Argentina and Puerto Rico.
Senegal boasts of Minnesota Timberwolves' Gorgui Dieng and NBA D-League player Hamady N'Diaye -- both of them 7-foot tall.
Meanwhile, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Manny Pangilinan said he wants Gilas to return to the Philippines with at least one victory under its belt.
Pangilinan was among those who was frustrated after seeing what could have been a win against Puerto Rico slip away.
"Napakalungkot," the business executive said. "Nagumpisa tayo sa second quarter, bumagsak ang lead natin. Fifteen puntos sa first quarter ang pinakamataas tapos bumagsak sa lima sa second half."
"Ganun din sa Argentina, mas malakas lang ang Argentina. Sa third ganun din, bagsak. Sa fourth pata," he noted.
Pangilinan said he remembered texting coach Chot Reyes prior to the Puerto Rico game, asking for a victory.
"It's about time, it's about time. 'Yun ang text message ko kay Coach Chot kaninang umaga (Wednesday morning)," Pangilinan shared. "Sabi ko 'Let's go guys. Let's get Puerto Rico. It's time for a real win.'"
The game between Gilas and Senegal begins at 8 p.m. Manila time.