MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas had its heart broken after absorbing a shocking home loss to Kazakhstan, but June Mar Fajardo said the team can't carry the negativity heading into its pivotal clash against Iran.
The Philippines, which fell to a share of 3rd place in Group F of the World Cup qualifiers with Japan behind a 5-4 card, needs to pull off a win when it hosts Iran on Monday, December 3, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Only the top 3 teams from Groups E and F will secure berths in the 2019 FIBA World Cup so Gilas can't afford another loss, especially now that Japan is riding on a four-game winning streak.
"Masakit, lalo na nasa homecourt tayo. Lesson learned," Fajardo told reporters after the Filipinos fell short to the Kazakhs, 88-92, at the start of the fifth window on Friday, November 30.
(It hurts to lose, especially on our homecourt. Lesson learned.)
"'Di kailangan i-down mga sarili natin dahil sa pagkatalong ito. 'Di natin puwedeng dalhin 'yung sama ng loob sa game sa Monday kasi mas lalong maapektuhan tayo."
(We can't get too low from this loss. We can't bring the negativity heading into our game on Monday because that would spell doom for us.)
After missing the entire fourth window due to a shin injury, it was supposed to be a comeback party for the PBA's reigning four-time Most Valuable Player.
Fajardo made up for lost time and delivered 14 points, 13 rebounds and 3 steals, but the visitor's own big men stole the show.
Alexander Zhigulin fired 30 points behind 6 triples on top of 7 rebounds while Anton Bykov pumped in 20 markers and 9 boards to power Kazakhstan to its first win in the World Cup qualifiers since February.
"Sobrang mahirap, dami nilang tres na napasok. Ayun, lesson learned pero may next game pa naman so kailangan i-redeem mga sarili namin sa Monday," Fajardo added.
(It was hard because their three-pointers fell. Lesson learned for us but we still have an upcoming game so we need to redeem ourselves on Monday.)
"Kailangan nating manalo, pero 'di ganoon kadali 'yun so kailangan ibuhos lahat."
(We need to win. That will be hard to do so we have to give it our all.)
Iran is coming off an embarrassing 47-76 loss to Australia and Gilas will look to pounce on that when they meet for the second time in the World Cup qualifiers. The Iranians beat the Filipinos, 81-73, in September. – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.