GILAS Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes believes the team’s gritty performance against European power France will make its Fiba-World Cup opponents think twice about the Philippine team's real caliber.
The Philippines led for much of the second half but France managed to exploit its size advantage, riding on the broad shoulders of NBA veteran Nicolas Batum in the second half to pull off a hard-earned 75-68 victory at the start of the 2014 Antibes International Tournament late Friday (Saturday, Manila time) in Antibes, France.
"We fought them (French team) tooth and nail. We could've brought down a giant today. Now teams will be ready for us and not take us for granted," Gilas team manager Aboy Castro quoted Reyes as saying during the post-game talk.
"Hell of an effort guys. That was a Top 5 team that we fought," added the fiery national coach.
Reyes felt the Filipinos were within minutes of upstaging the host squad, a perennial Euro Basket powerhouse, which played without star point guard and San Antonio Spurs ace playmaker Tony Parker.
Though lacking in size, Gilas showed its big, fighting heart, while battling France's NBA veteran-bannered frontline led by Batum of the Portland Trailblazers, Boris Diaw of reigning NBA champions Spurs along with journeymen Mikael Pietrus and Ian Mahinmi, before a motley Filipino contingent that cheered for the Philippine team the entire game.
Good ball movement enabled the Nationals to find open men from the outside, resulting in 12 three-pointers.
Jimmy Alapag, probably the shortest player in the four-nation pocket tournament, showcased his shooting prowess when he scored a daredevil drive against Mahinmi, before later on adding a wide-open three-point shot to push Gilas ahead, 60-55, in the halfway mark of the final period.
Gilas, which is using the mini-tournament as part of its preparation for the world championships, tries to get into the win-colum on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time) when it faces 2013 FIBA-Oceania men's basketball champion Australia.
The Aussies opened the pocket tournament with a 74-65 whipping of Ukraine, which is mentored by many-time NBA coach Mike Fratello.