The Philippine Star

Batang Gilas bows to Croatia


Kai Sotto proved his mettle on the global stage as he delivered 23 points and 12 rebounds but Batang Gilas couldn’t hold back Croatia despite the 7-1 center’s heroics and lost, 9775, to start its campaign on a shaky note at the fifth FIBA U17 World Cup in Rosario, Argentina, last Saturday night (yesterday 4:30 a.m., Manila time).

Aside from Sotto’s performanc­e, there were other positive takeaways in Batang Gilas’ debut. The Philippine­s grabbed more rebounds, 46-36, took more free throw attempts, 32-14, had more second chance points, 147, scored more foul shots, 21-9 and fought until the end, even matching Croatia’s output, 26-all, in the fourth period. The negatives, however, were killers.

Croatia capitalize­d on Batang Gilas’ 28 turnovers to score 30 points off the errors. Croatia had only 16 miscues from which the Philippine­s hit 11 points. Croatia also had more fastbreak points, 26-13, points in the paint, 44-30, bench points, 36-33, three-point conversion­s, 10-of-24 to 6-of-16 and steals, 19-7. Forthsky Padrigao, Batang Gilas’ primary point guard, had six turnovers in 12:19 minutes.

“We played poorly on defense,” rued Batang Gilas coach Mike Oliver. “We committed 28 turnovers and lacked aggressive­ness. We had communicat­ion lapses which is why we had a lot of turnovers. If we want to play better against France, we have to take care of the ball and execute well on offense. We can’t afford miscommuni­cation.”

The Philippine­s plays France next with the game scheduled 5:15 a.m. today, Manila time. Batang Gilas ends its Group D assignment­s against host Argentina on Wednesday, 7:30 a.m., Manila time then battles in the knockout Round of 16.

The Round of 16 pairings will be determined by the order of finish in the group stage. If the Philippine­s finishes fourth in Group D, it will play No. 1 in Group C, likely to be world No. 2 Canada, in the Round of 16. Argentine time is 11 hours behind Manila.

Sotto, 16, was the MVP at the FIBA Asia/Pacific U16 qualifiers in Foshan, China, last April and didn’t disappoint in his first U17 World Cup appearance. He shot 9-of-14 from the floor and 5-of-8 free throws in 31:03 minutes. Three teammates also finished in double figure points with Terrence Fortea firing 14, Raven Cortez 13 and Carl Tamayo 12. Starters Padrigao, RC Calimag and Yukien Andrada shot a combined 7 points on 3-of-14 from the field.

For Croatia, 6-9 Matej Rudan showed the way with 16 points, four rebounds, four assists and 4-of-6 triples. Other twin digit scorers were 6-8 Matej Bosnjak with 14, 6-5 Ivan Gulin with 13 and 6-7 Roko Prkacin with 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists. No player in the Croatian team is less than 6-1 while Batang Gilas has three players who are 5-11.

In other games, the US swamped China, 115-37, Egypt trounced New Zealand, 64-50 and Australia nipped the Dominican Republic, 73-71.

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