IT was an Under-16 game, but the result was eerily familiar for Gilas Pilipinas.
Chinese-Taipei dealt the Filipino boys a 95-90 defeat in the Fiba Asia Under-16 championships in Tehran, Iran on Friday night in a result that mirrored its men's team's win over Gilas in Manila last August.
The victory, which allowed Chinese-Taipei to top their bracket with a 2-0 (win-loss) card, also followed the same pattern as its men's team's 84-79 win over Gilas in the preliminaries of the Fiba-Asia Men's Championship in Manila last August 3.
[For full story, see Nightmare ending as Taipei breaks Gilas heart with fourth-quarter comeback]
The Filipino ruled the battle off both boards, 60-40, and dominated play for most of the first half before the Taiwanese launched a torrid third-quarter fightback behind Tsu Ssu-han, who scored 15 of his game-high 29 points in that period including a buzzer-beating trey that gave them a 68-66 lead.
And like their men's team, the Taiwanese did the most damage with their fiery three-point shooting, making 12 of 31 attempts for a 39 percent clip.
"Sayang ang game namin, tinamaan lang ng malas," said Jigs Mendoza, Gilas under-16 assistant coach. “Like we said, kulang talaga tayo sa jelling pa ang team. And most of our best players were not made available.”
Michael Nieto topscored with 26 points to go with 16 rebounds while Andres Desiderio and Seaba MVP Jolo Mendoza combined for 39 markers for the Filipinos, who are without top big man Kobe Paras as well as key players Richie Rivero, Dino San Juan and Norrish Decapia.
“Pero we’re not looking for excuses, we’ll try to bounce back in the next round,” added the Barako Bull Energy Cola scout.
Gilas, which opened its campaign with a win over Kazakhstan, gave Chinese Taipei a tougher fight than the Kazakhs who dropped a lopsided 109-82 loss to the same team on Wednesday.
“Yun ang maganda kasi kahit papano, pinahirapan natin sila. To think na kulang talaga sa ensayo ang mga bata,” added Mendoza of the team which last played together during the Seaba tournament in July.
The Philippines, now 1-1, will now move to Group F in the second round of the preliminaries where it will begin its campaign with a game against Jordan at 3:30 PM on Saturday (Manila time).