The Philippine Star

Batang Gilas bows to Croatia

- By JOAQUIN HENSON

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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