By Ivan Stewart Saldajeno

DENIED. Jordan Clarckson scores a dunk but his 23 points were not enough to help Gilas Pilipinas get the important win against Italy, which advanced the next round of the 2023 FIBA World Cup at Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City on Tuesday night (Aug. 29, 2023). Italy ousted the Philippines with a 90-83 win and joined the Dominican Republic in the second round. (PNA photo by Avito C. Dalan)

MANILA – Gilas Pilipinas failed in its first shot at outright Paris Olympics qualification after bowing to Italy, 90-83, in their FIBA World Cup game on Tuesday night at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

Gilas was relegated to the lower bracket of the competition, or the classification phase.

Needing to win by at least 12 points to clinch an upper bracket seat, Gilas looked poised to pull off an upset against the World No. 10 Italy as it took a 23-20 lead at the end of the first quarter.

However, Italy responded with a 28-16 second quarter to go up, 48-39, at the half then stretched the lead to as much as 78-60, with 8:27 left in the match.

Gilas closed the game strong, but just enough to cut Italy’s lead to a respectable margin.

While Jordan Clarkson prevailed over Simone Fontecchio in the scoring battle between Utah Jazz players, the Italian had the last laugh as they joined the Dominican Republic in the final 16.

Fontecchio led Italy with 18 points, six rebounds, one assist and one steal, while Giampaolo Ricci added 14 points, two rebounds and one assist.

Clarkson put up 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists and one steal for Gilas, which became the first host team to drop its first three games in the FIBA World Cup after Colombia also went 0-3 to start the 1982 edition.

Luckily for Gilas, the race to Paris remains wide open after Japan lost in its own shot at making the Top 16 with a 109-89 Australia win at the Okinawa Arena. (PNA)