Although the Group Phase has concluded for Gilas Pilipinas, their determination remains unwavering. Despite a 0-3 performance, the Philippines’ focus has shifted towards two crucial classification games that will determine their destiny in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.

With no intention of surrender, the Philippines pushes forward, eyeing their chances in these two upcoming matches.

The first match is set for Thursday, August 31, followed by the second on September 2.

These encounters hold the potential to secure a spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics, as the highest-ranking Asian team from the World Cup will represent the region.

While the final standings in Group B are yet to be determined, Serbia currently holds a secure position at No. 1 with a 2-0 record.

This leaves China, Puerto Rico, and South Sudan as potential pathways for Gilas Pilipinas to earn their ticket to Paris, with the definitive placements to be revealed on Wednesday.

The upcoming match at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Thursday will require substantial support from fans, given its significance.

Despite the Philippines’ winless streak in Group A, the dream of participating in the Olympics persists within the hearts of every Filipino.

Gilas Pilipinas is poised to face off against the third and fourth-place teams from Group B, marking crucial showdowns.

Anticipation for the game is high, with a sold-out crowd anticipated to wear blue in solidarity with the team’s unwavering spirit.

The clash is scheduled for an 8 p.m. tip-off, and Gilas Pilipinas is mentally prepared for another challenging battle.

“We’re incredibly motivated. Our motivation has been there from the start. Our team possesses strength and resilience, consistently fighting until the final moments of the game,” stated Jordan Clarkson, reflecting on the team’s valiant effort against Italy, despite a narrow loss of 90-83.

Clarkson believes that the Philippines is on the brink of discovering the winning formula, poised to make the final push to overcome challenges. Despite narrow defeats against Dominican Republic, Angola, and Italy, the team remains determined.

“We’ve always felt that we’re in every game. We fight relentlessly and possess the strength to rally. We’re capable of turning things around and securing these two victories. We understand the significance, both for us and our nation. We’re giving it our all,” declared the standout player of Gilas Pilipinas.

The race for the solitary Olympic slot allocated to Asia remains fiercely contested, with Japan leading the charge after finishing the initial round with a 1-2 record. Carrying over their 0-3 record from the Group Phase, Gilas Pilipinas hopes for losses from Japan and other Asian teams, while they secure victories to emerge as the highest-ranked Asian team in the tournament.

Coach Chot Reyes had Paris and the Olympics on his mind even prior to the Italy game.

“Our focus is on delivering 40 minutes of solid basketball because our goal is to qualify for the Olympics,” affirmed Reyes. “I’m not fixated on the numbers. What matters to me is earning that Olympic berth.” (ai/mnm)