Despite suffering a 76-83 loss at the hands of Serbia, the young Gilas Pilipinas crew certainly left a good impression on opposing head coach Igor Kokoskov, who lauded the Filipinos’ resiliency and cohesion that allowed them to come back from a 16-point second half deficit and almost pull off a monumental upset.
Down 40-56, the Gilas did not lay down and came roaring back to take the lead, 74-73, before Serbian giant Boban Marjanovic took over the late to give the hosts the win. Afterwards, Kokoskov, who previously coached the Phoenix Suns in the NBA, congratulated the Gilas for their effort.
“We’d like to congratulate the Philippine team for playing really well, playing together as a unit,” said Kokoskov.
Serbia appeared to have the game in control as they took a 16-point lead after a basket by Dejan Davidovac wth 6:53 left in the third. By the end of that stretch, though, the Filipinos had already narrowed the gap to just five, 62-67. The Gilas’ efforts did not go unnoticed, even amongst Serbia’s players.
“First of all, congratulations to the Philippines. They played a really good game tonight,” said Danilo Andjusic, who scored 12 points.
Expectations were not high for the Gilas in this game especially after Serbia trounced the Philippines by 59 points, 126-67, the last time the two teams met in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. However, the team that faced off against the no. 5 ranked basketball team in the world on Thursday morning is an entirely different one, with a core composed of young players handpicked by head coach Tab Baldwin and his staff.
Kokoskov gave credit to Baldwin, who also happens to be a dear friend of his.
“Coach Baldwin is doing a great job, a dear friend of mine. I think he’s doing an awesome job and I’m happy for him,” said Kokoskov. “I think his team played really together, and they are competing.” (JNP)