KAZAKHSTAN national coach Matteo Boniciolli said they have nothing to be ashamed of after letting a winnable game against defending Asian champion China slip through their grasp Monday night.
The soft-spoken Italian coach said he was pleased to see Kazakhstan hold their own against the Chinese before fading, 67-73, in the FIBA Asia Championship at the MOA Arena.
“We came (to Manila). We came and played against NBA players, a legendary coach a great tradition in basketball, and an unbelievable country. (We) tied the game at 65-65 before losing,” said Boniccioli, whose team absorbed its first loss in the tournament after a three-game sweep of the first round.
Among those Boniciolli was referring to was veteran Chinese center Wang Zhizhi, who contributed 12 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of play.
“That confirms our status that we’re not here for a vacation but to try and get the medal. This is why I’m proud of our players”, Boniciolli surmised.
The Kazakhstan coach said the China game is a good test of character for his team, which is trying to match if not surpass its fourth place finish in the 2007 FIBA Asia men’s championships in Tokushima, Japan.
“I told my players that we have two goals- to win, and we have gone very close to doing it because the players respected the game plan, even being able to change our defense from man to man to zone, and as I said, we missed two open shots by the team. If it went in, the situation (would have) changed. But this is a good experience for us,” explained Boniciolli.
The Kazakhs trailed by as many as 16 points in the second period but managed to stage a strong fightback that saw them even take a 63-62 lead in the 3:12 mark of the fourth quarter.