MANILA, Philippines -- With their chances of advancing to the knockout round diminished, Gilas Pilipinas 3x3 hopes to give a good account of themselves when the team returns to action on Friday in the FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
The national 3x3 team dropped its first two assignments in the group round, bowing to Qatar 12-21, and then to powerhouse Slovenia some two hours later, 11-21.
In both games, Gilas 3x3 was plagued by a slow start and could not overcome an early deficit.
This, CJ Perez said, is what they hope to avoid when they play Dominican Republic and France on Friday.
"'Yung simula, 'yun lang naman," Perez said of the adjustments they need to make. "'Yung simula lang talaga."
Perez teamed up with top-ranked 3x3 player Joshua Munzon, San Miguel teammate Moala Tautuaa, and Rain or Shine rookie Leonard "Santi" Santillan in the Olympic qualifiers. It marked the first time that they had played together in a proper tournament, having trained just earlier this month at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.
For Perez and Tautuaa, this was also just their second 3x3 tournament after the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. But the San Miguel guard insisted that their relative inexperience in the halfcourt game was not an excuse for their poor performance.
"Ang bagal ng start. Saka, siyempre mas experienced sila sa 3x3. Alam nila kung paano laruin," said Perez.
"Pero wala namang excuse, talagang binigay namin 'yung best namin. And mas better player lang talaga sila, mas magaling sila, ayun," he added.
As only the top two teams in each group will advance to the knockout phase, the Philippines will have to sweep its remaining two assignments to have a chance of making it.
It's a tall task for Gilas 3x3, as France is seeded sixth in the tournament and won both of their games yesterday. They beat Slovenia, 19-17, and crushed the Dominican Republic, 21-7.
While he is aware of the challenge, Perez said they will simply try their best to grab a victory and keep themselves afloat.
"Basta kami, bibigay namin 'yung best namin. Talagang lalaruin namin 'yung dalawang games pa na natitira, and sana makapanalo kami," he said. "Stick pa rin kami sa plan namin, sa plan namin na pinaghandaan namin talaga, ayun."
"Sana gumanda na 'yung laro namin. And siyempre, 'yun nga, uulit-ulitin ko, gagawin namin 'yung best namin para makapanalo," he also said.
Gilas 3x3 plays the Dominican Republic at 5:50 p.m. on Friday, before wrapping up their group round schedule against France at 7:55 p.m.
The top three finishers in the qualifiers will secure their ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: