GILAS Pilipinas kicked off its campaign in the Torneo de Malaga on a losing note as it fell against Congo, 82-71, Saturday morning at the Pabellon Martin Carpena in Malaga, Spain.
"Gabe's absence was felt tonight. We lacked the height and the length to compete against Congo," according to Gilas deputy coach Ryan Gregorio.
The Filipinos failed to sustain a good start as fatigue finally caught up with them down the stretch when the Congolese pulled away for good by hitting their shots from three-point range.
Robert Bolick led the Philippine side with 21 points spiked by a 3-of-5 shooting from three-point range.
Naturalized player Andray Blatche added 15, but was held to just two points in the second half, while CJ Perez had 11 and Paul Lee with eight for Gilas, which led by as many as 28-20 in the second quarter.
Coach Yeng Guiao again relied on a nine-man roster as Gabe Norwood still has to fully recover from the mild groin strain he suffered in the team's earlier meeting with Congo.
But there's no excuse for the Filipinos' first loss in three outings so far in their 10-day training camp as they prepare for the coming FIBA World Cup in China.
Gilas swept its two friendlies against Congo (102-80) and Ivory Coast (94-83) in Guadalajara over the week before coming over to Malaga for the mini pocket tournament that also features world no. 2 Spain.
The loss however, dampened hopes of the Filipinos to meet the host country, bannered by Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, and other NBA players, on the final day of the tournament as the winner of the game between Spain and Ivory Coast is scheduled to face Congo on Saturday.
Ron Mvouika finished with 21 points to pace Congo, while Ruphin Kayembe added 16.
Mvouika was also a perfect 4-of-4 from three-point range for Congo. (RG) / Image courtesy of Ryan Gregorio/SBP