FOSHAN, China—Heading into the 2019 FIBA World Cup, Gilas Pilipinas coach Yeng Guiao made it clear that his team's full focus was on the game against Italy.
It would be the most important game of the tournament for the Philippines, one that could make or break their chances of advancing to the second phase of the competition.
"All our resources in terms of scouting, in terms of time, has been focused on (Italy)," Guiao said before the team left for China.
Unfortunately for Gilas Pilipinas, their extensive preparation for Italy, which included sending coaches Sandy Arespacochaga and Ford Arao as advance scouts to watch the Italians play in a pre-World Cup tournament, went for naught.
As ready as the Filipinos were, Italy still proved to be too much for them. In their first game of the World Cup, Italy handed the Philippines a 108-62 defeat, peppering them with three-pointers while the Filipinos shot brick after brick from beyond the arc.
"We prepared long," said Guiao. "But apparently, a lot of that preparation did not manifest itself."
For all of their preparation, training and scouting, the Philippine players still had no answer for the Italian's physical advantages. Guiao noted that Italy "has size in the guard position, which we do not have, and they have quickness in their bigs, which we do not have."
That much was made clear on the defensive end, as Gilas struggled to keep up with Italy's ball movement, often leading to open three-pointers that their opponents eagerly took. Italy would make 15 of their 31 triples in the game.
"There's always a problem when you're rotating, and your bigs are not able to keep up with that kind of rotation. Somebody's always gonna be open on the third or fourth, maybe on the fifth pass," Guiao explained.
On the other end, the Italians had little problem slowing Gilas down, and they had plenty of options to throw at naturalized Filipino center Andray Blatche. They smothered the smaller Gilas backcourt, though CJ Perez had some success in driving to the basket.
"Their guards could guard our bigs, and their bigs could guards our guards," Guiao said.
Perhaps the most brutal part of the game was Gilas' 3-point shooting. Before the contest, Guiao said that his team would need "10 to 12 3-point shots" in order to stay in the game against Italy. They devoted part of their practice to shooting drills, hoping that they would find their mark come game time.
Instead, the Filipino players were ice cold. They missed their first 17 attempts from beyond the arc; Kiefer Ravena would make their first three-pointer with just a little over seven minutes left to play. Blatche and Perez would also nail triples of their own, as the Philippines finished a woeful 3-of-23 from deep.
"It's just really a dead end for us, especially if we're not making our three-point shots," said Guiao.
The loss now puts the Philippines in a must-win position when they play Serbia on Monday — another tall task, as the Serbians are considered favorites not just to advance from Group D, but to win the whole tournament.
"We have a day to find some adjustments, make some improvements. We'll see on Monday," said Guiao.
"But I guess we just have to gather ourselves again and be able to recover physically, and be able to find additional motivation to be able to play Serbia."
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.