GILAS Pilipinas’ Olympic hopes hinge on its game against Dominican Republic on Friday morning (2:30 a.m., Manila time).
Stakes can’t get any higher for the Filipinos in their second game in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, coming just a day after a valiant stand against host Serbia fell just short, 83-76.
A victory for the Philippines will put it a step closer to its first-ever appearance in the Olympics basketball since 1972 in Munich where it finished at 13th place.
It will be the first meeting between the two nations in a Fiba-sanctioned competition. At stake is the last seat in the semifinals of the Belgrade OQT.
The winner of the match will secure second spot in Group A behind Serbia, which also beat Dominican Republic, 94-76, on Wednesday.
The winner of the Gilas-Dominican Republic match will take on the winner of the game between Italy and Puerto Rico in the gameday’s curtain raiser.
Both the Italians and the Puerto Ricans gained automatic byes to the knockout phase after Senegal pulled out of the six-nation tournament after members of its delegation were hit with COVID-19 in its training camp in Germany.
Italy, the world No. 10, is led by Golden State Warriors guard Nico Mannion and Dallas Mavericks forward Nicolo Melli. Puerto Rico is ranked 18th and will be leaning on guard Gian Clavell in the battle for the top seed of Group B at 10:30 p.m. (Manila time).
The loser of this Italy-Puerto Rico face-off will meet tournament favorite Serbia in the other semifinal pairing, with the winners advancing to the one-game final.
Only the winner of the Belgrade OQT will punch a ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where it will be bracketed in Group B together with Australia, Nigeria, and the winner of the Split OQT later this month.
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