The players of the Philippine national team were at once proud but frustrated after falling short against highly-favored Serbia, 83-76, in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade.
With their youth and relative inexperience at the international stage, Gilas Pilipinas wasn't given much of a chance to beat Serbia, which is ranked fifth in the world and featured Dallas Mavericks center Boban Marjanovic, as well as veteran point guard Milos Teodosic.
But the Philippines very nearly pulled off what would have been a historic upset. They led briefly in the fourth quarter, and trailed by just three points, 79-76, with a minute to play before Marjanovic took charge to help Serbia avoid the shock loss.
Afterward, Gilas Pilipinas team captain Isaac Go said there were some "mixed emotions" in the locker room about their feat.
"I think there's some mixed emotions with the team," said Go, who scored four points in 10 minutes of action. "One is that we feel good because we had a close game against a very good Serbian team."
"But at the same time, there's a frustration in the team that there was so much more we could've done," he admitted.
Gilas coach Tab Baldwin himself said that he was not one for moral victories, even though their effort was widely applauded in the Philippines and their effort was hailed by their own opponents.
While he stressed that he was proud of the fight shown by his players, Baldwin also lamented their missed chances down the stretch. Gilas bricked their last five field goals after cutting the deficit to three points, and had no answer for Marjanovic on the other end.
Go said the team shared in Baldwin's frustration.
"We could've followed the game plan more. Some guys felt like they should've hit some certain shots. So there's quite a mix of emotions right now in the team," he said.
Despite the disappointment, Go said the close game was a credit not just to the players but also to the Gilas coaching staff who prepared them.
"The players did a good job of responding to the questions, the challenges of the coaches and, of course, the Serbian team," he said.
"This shows that we're all resilient because I think a lot of people weren't expecting us to win. A lot of us weren't expecting us to be in such a close game," he added.
"But at the same time, being basketball players, we wanna win. We wanna go out there and believe that we can compete with these guys."
The key for Gilas now is to move past their loss to Serbia and focus on their game against the Dominican Republic. The winner of that game will advance to the semifinals of the OQT.
"We have to get over that game, get some rest, hydrate. We already received the scouting report for Dominican Republic," said Go.
"That's tournament basketball, you don't get a lot of days off and there's a quick turnaround. So for some of these guys who felt the frustration of the other game, they have a chance to play well tomorrow. So it's just that. It's exciting and we're just getting ready for it," he said.