RONNIE Magsanoc couldn’t ask for more as he lauded the courage and determination shown by the Gilas 3x3 men’s team that just fell short of qualifying in the main draw of the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup in Changsha, China.
Although already down and out of the race for a berth in the main tournament, the Filipinos still came out with great resolve in their Day 2 campaign despite being down to just a three-man roster following the injury suffered by main gunner Ricci Rivero at the start of the qualifier on Wednesday.
Spitfire guard RJ Abarrientos was at the helm of the Gilas team’s turnaround on Thursday in which it beat powerhouse Iran and Samoa, one after the other.
Abarrientos, the youngest in the team, had to overcome a tweaked ankle to stun the Iranians, 21-19, as he scored 18 of the team’s total output.
He also topscored for 14 points in the Filipinos’ 22-15 beating of Samoa that allowed the team to finish with an even 2-2 record in Group A.
Qatar, a 21-17 winner over Gilas Pilipinas on Wednesday, topped the group and advanced in the main draw that starts on Friday.
“RJ Abarrientos typified the Pinoy fighting spirit over extending himself with superhuman effort just to help the team win its last two matches,” said Magsanoc in a message from Changsha.
“Barkley Ebona and Rhyann Amsali also showed their grit and toughness playing no relief and battling against the giants of Iran and Samoa.”
Rivero no longer suited up for Gilas after suffering a sprain in a sorry loss against Thailand on opening day, which Magsanoc describes as a ‘big blow to the team’s chances over all.’
“Through all this, this three-gallant men had Ricci Rivero (and his injury as) their rallying point,” Magsanoc pointed out.
“Playing through pain and overcoming the handicap of playing the last two games wih only three players, it was a special second day for the Gilas 3x3 team simply because they were able to fight through the difficulties of playing with a three-man roster against one of the strongest teams in Iran, and even against another very tall roster in Samoa,” said the Gilas 3x3 coach.
“All I ask of them was to play hard and give their best. In the end, they came with two wins in an incredible showcase of character and team work.”