MANILA, Philippines—Gilas Pilipinas captain Gabe Norwood summed up the country's sentiments following the team's winless homestand in the fifth qualifying window for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
"Dejected, frustrated, disappointed," Norwood said on Monday night.
The Philippines was coming off a gutting 78-70 loss to Iran, wherein the hosts squandered an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter and surrendered a 9-0 run to the visitors in the final 42 seconds.
Just three nights before, they also succumbed to Kazakhstan 92-88 at Mall of Asia Arena. The two losses put the Philippines in a precarious position heading into the final window. At 5-5 in Group F, the Filipinos have to win their last two games just to keep their hopes of playing in the World Cup alive.
"There's no one to blame but ourselves," Norwood said. "We had our opportunities with two winnable games."
"Kudos to Kazakhstan and Iran. They both came out, made big shots, made big plays, and they were ready," he added.
Norwood saw some improvement in the team on Monday night, especially after its disappointing result against Kazakhstan. Gilas held a slim lead over Iran for most of the game, but faltered at the final hurdle.
"There's a lot of progression in a good way from three nights ago to tonight. Our effort was good, our energy level seemed to be a lot better," noted the Gilas veteran.
"Jayson (Castro) was coming back and was just carrying the team. This is what Jayson does in big moments. You know what I mean?" he added. "It was great to see that once again, but at the end of the day, it has to be a full team effort at the end."
Castro scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half, including a three-pointer that briefly gave the Philippines the lead in crunch time. However, he also missed two crucial triples in the final minute as Iran's defense swarmed him.
"I think everybody anticipated a better showing. Maybe not necessarily guaranteed wins, but just overall, a better showing," Norwood said.
"We came up short to that. We had high expectations for ourselves. I know we let a lot of people down, but we let ourselves down, too."
Not all is lost for the Philippines, although its road to the World Cup next year got even tougher. The Filipinos have to win their last two assignments of the qualifiers — away games to Qatar and Kazakhstan — while also hoping to get some lucky breaks with regards to the result of other team's games.
"Down but not out right now," Norwood said. "Whoever the 12 are that represents us in February, hopefully they learn from these mistakes and find a way to get us a win."
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