Gilas Pilipinas drops hard-fought game vs European champion France
The Philippine national men's basketball team served notice ahead of the FIBA Basketball World Cup after dropping a hard-fought 75-68 result to European champion France in Antibes on Friday (Saturday PHL time).

Apart from playing on home soil, the French team is bannered by Boris Diaw, Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier, Ian Mahinmi, and Nando De Colo among others with NBA experience.

But the Gilas Pilipinas players never seemed fazed against their more heralded opponents, taking a halftime lead, 39-35, after back-to-back three-pointers from sniper Jeff Chan. The French squad tried to use its size and length to pressure the Filipinos, but point guards Jimmy Alapag and LA Tenorio continued to find driving lanes to kick out to open shooters.

France battled back behind the Blazers' budding star Batum, momentarily taking a 52-48 lead in the third quarter. But Gilas struck back quickly, ending the period with seven straight points capped by a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Ranidel De Ocampo for a 55-52 advantage.

Naturalized player Andray Blatche left the game for Gilas near the end of the third quarter after hitting the floor while clutching his right foot.

Despite the loss of its top center, Gilas remained in control early in the fourth, even taking a 60-55 advantage.

But France, taking advantage of Blatche's absence put together a 13-4 run to take the driver's seat, 68-64, with less than three minutes left.

Blatche would later return for the stretch run, but was visibly hobbled. The Philippines was still within striking distance, 70-67, when French guard Antoine Diot nailed a bailout three-pointer to stretch his team's advantage to six points with less than two minutes remaining.

Gilas could only muster a single point the rest of the way to allow the hosts to escape.

Batum scored 16 points, including 14 in the second half, and 12 rebounds to lead the home team.

France was playing without superstar point guard Tony Parker, who will miss the World Cup. But Gilas had its own point guard handicap, with top gun Jayson Castro sitting out the game because of injury.

After France, Gilas will battle Australia and Ukraine to round out their assignments in the pocket tournament. — JST, GMA News

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