SEVILLE, SPAIN - Andray Blatche was spread out on a sofa in the lobby of the Barcelo Recamiento Hotel, dead tired but with a smile on his face.
"Even though we lost, we're keeping our heads up," the 6-foot-10 naturalized Filipino said, just moments after Gilas Pilipinas dropped a close 78-81 overtime loss to Croatia in the Fiba World Cup of Basketball.
Blatche scored 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in his international debut for Gilas in a game it nearly won in the final seconds of regulation and kept close down to the very end.
The former Brooklyn Net said the thousands of Filipinos who witnessed the game at the Centro de Deportivo San Pablo Stadium - and millions more who watched the game on television - had every reason to feel disappointed after the near-miss.
"I was hoping that we could've pulled it off," said Blatche, sighing. "A lot of teams would've given in, down by 15 points. We put ourselves in a position to win, but we just fell short."
Still, he said Gilas took away a lot of positives from the game which could boost its confidence heading to the next four matches in the country's first appearance in this conclave in 35 years.
"One thing about it is we're confident now, we know that we belong," said the Gilas naturalized slotman. "Coming in here, a lot of people doubted us and saw us as an easy match.
"But we're getting there."
Blatche said Gilas will take the same gung-ho attitude to the rest of its campaign in this 24-nation showpiece spread over four Spanish cities, beginning with Sunday's match against Greece.
And what can we expect from in the next game?
"We'll come over with a lot of heart, a lot of effort. A lot of teams woke up and realized what kind of team we are. We're getting better and we will keep on fighting," he said.