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Gilas Pilipinas loses OT game, wins hearts with superb opener vs Croatia

The Philippine national basketball team lost its debut in the FIBA Basketball World Cup, but not before giving Croatia a huge scare in overtime, 81-78 overtime on Saturday in Seville, Spain.

The taller Croats started out strong against a tight Gilas Pilipinas squad showing jitters, 23-9, after the first quarter.

But the smaller Filipinos, behind local heroes Marc Pingris and Jimmy Alapag, struck back in the second quarter, cutting the deficit to just six points, 37-31, at halftime.

Gilas stayed within striking distance for most of the third period, and was still down by only three points, 52-49, when Jayson Castro was called for a technical foul for flopping.

That resulted in two free throws plus possession for Croatia, which nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer for a 57-49 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

Croatia was still up, 64-56, when Jeff Chan scored a tough three-pointer to spark a Gilas uprising.

Marc Pingris followed that up with a difficult reverse layup, before Andray Blatche made a three-pointer to tie the game, 64-all, with 3:17 left in regulation.

After free throws for Croatia, Chan drew a foul from beyond the arc. That gave the sharpshooter from Negros three free throws to give the Philippines the advantage, 67-66.

Blatche nailed a basket to stretch the Gilas advantage to three, 69-66, with 2:20 remaining in regulation.

After a Croatia timeout, Krunoslav Simon scored a cold-blooded three-pointer to tie the game.

Croatia took back the lead on a Dario Saric jumper with 1:33 remaining. After fruitless tries for both teams, Jayson Castro tied the game with a floater with 39 seconds left.

The Philippines had a chance to win the game in regulation after getting a stop with 20 seconds left. But Chan's well-challenged three-pointer failed to find the mark, resulting in overtime.

Croatian superstar Bogdan Bogdanovic, who finished with 27 points, scored two free throws to break the game's final deadlock and give his team a 77-75 edge with 41 seconds in overtime.

After a Ranidel De Ocampo miss, Bogdanovic scored two more free throws to make it a two-possession game, 79-75, with 19 seconds left.

But there was no giving up for Gilas, which found Blatche for a three-pointer to come within one, 79-78, with 7.6 seconds remaining.

Damjan Rudez scored two free throws to stretch the Croatia advantage to three, 81-78. Gilas had enough time for a final shot, but Castro's desperation shot failed to find the mark. — JST, GMA News