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Sun 23 June 2024

South Sudan shatters PH’s direct bid for Olympic hoop slot

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Rookies South Sudan dealt the Philippines its biggest loss, 68-87, to boost the former’s Olympic qualification and derail the latter’s in the 17th to 32nd place classification stage of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup Thursday at the Araneta Coliseum.

The conflict-stricken Saharan nation, 22 spots lower than the Philippines in the world ranking, kick-started the Group M classification group match with a 12-2 run, doubling the lead by as much as 20 in the first half through nine made triples and excellent passing toward the open man.

Testament to that team play was South Sudan’s 25 assists, committing only nine turnovers.

Reigning 2023 NBA G-League Most Valuable Player and Chicago Bulls standout Carlik Jones nearly chalked the first triple-double in FIBA Worlds history with 17 points, 14 assists, and nine rebounds while five other players scored in double digits for South Sudan.

“14 assists, 1 turnover, that’s what point guards do. They lead. They make everybody else better on the court and that’s what he did tonight. . . for the world to see,” Jones’ head coach Royal Ivey remarked after the game.

“He’s a true leader, and that’s what leaders do. They bring home the fight. He led us to victory tonight. He brought us on his back,” Ivey, a former Philadelphia 76ers point guard, added.

Gilas tried, but failed, to mount a comeback, even trimming the lead to four points early in the fourth quarter, 56-50, through the offensive explosion of Jordan Clarkson and Dwight Ramos, helped by timely inside stabs by Kai Sotto.

However, South Sudan’s execution of the Spain pick-and-roll was perfected after an early timeout by Ivey as South Sudan scored eight easy inside stabs plus two open threes from Nuni Omot to pad the lead by 19 points coming to the last minute.

“This was a time for us to win, to execute the learning [experience]. It was supposed to happen way back,” a dejected head coach Chot Reyes said.

“I don’t think anything much needs to be said. We’ve played our worst game when it counted the most,” he added.

Clarkson hit his tournament average with 24 points and five turnovers to lead Gilas while Ramos had his best game so far with 20 points, 12 rebounds, and four triples.

Power forward AJ Edu added 12 points and 14 boards as the lone bright spot for Gilas in the first half. Sotto and Jamie Malonzo were the only other scorers for the Philippines.

With the win, the two-win, two-loss South Sudan is just a point away from fellow 2-2 Egypt in the raise for the lone African ticket to the 2024 Olympics.

South Sudan will try to extend its rapid rise in world basketball on Saturday against Angola while Egypt faces a daunting task against New Zealand in their classification round closer.

On the other hand, the Philippines has officially dropped its chance for an early Asian ticket to the Olympics as Japan thumped Venezuela, 86-77, earlier today for the Akatsuki’s second win.

The Filipinos will face basketball visiting rival China to close their tournament.

The scores:

SOUTH SUDAN 87 – Jones 17, Deng 13, Omot, 13, Shayok 12, Gabriel 11, Kuany 8, Kacuol 8, Acuoth 3, Dech 2, Maluach 0.

PHILIPPINES 68 – Clarkson 24, Ramos 23, Edu 12, Sotto 8, Malonzo 4, Abando 0, Ravena 0, Fajardo 0, Perez 0, Pogoy 0, Thompson 0, Aguilar 0.

Quarter scores: 34-17, 51-33, 60-50, 87-68

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