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Gilas Pilipinas almost shocked the hoops world after challenging Serbia before ultimately losinga competitive fight, 83-76 on Wednesday (Thursday Manila time) in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade.
The Philippines gave the world no. 5-ranked team some fits throughout the game, playing determined and being able to go toe-to-toe against the powerhouse squad.
Boban Marjanovic had a stellar performance, scoring 25 points on 67% shooting and grabbing 10 rebounds.
Ognjen Dobric and veteran Milos Teodosic added 16 and 13 points, respectively.
Gilas trailed by as much as 14 in the first half but battled back with a strong third quarter, eventually tying the game at 67-all in the fourth.
Later, an RJ Abarrientos lay-up pushed the nationals ahead, 74-73.
However, Marjanovic continued to impose his big presence with easy baskets underneath, the last being a hook with 36.6 seconds left to make it 81-76.
Ange Kouame led Gilas with 17 points, while Jordan Heading had 13 points on four threes.
Gilas had the same assists as Serbia, 21 apiece, and gave up only four rebounds to the perennial international heavyweights, 35-39.
Dwight Ramos, who is still nursing a groin injury, did not play.
The nationals will face Dominican Republic tomorrow in a do-or-die game where the winner advances to the tournament semi-finals.
Philippines (76) – Kouame 17, Heading 13, Sotto 10, Baltazar 10, Abarrientos 9, Tamayo 5 Go 4, Navarro 4, Nieto 2, Belangel 2.
Serbia (83) – Marjanovic 25, Dobric 16, Teodosic 13, Andjusic 12, Petrusev 8, Davidovac 5, Milosavljevic 2, Jovic 2, Avramovic 0.
Quarterscores: 16-22, 34-45, 62-67, 76-83.