Al Panlilio (STAR/ File)
MANILA, Philippines — Gilas Pilipinas belatedly got one last shot to make it to the Tokyo Olympics.
This after the International Basketball Federation named the Philippines as replacement for New Zealand in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament slated in Serbia from June 29-July 4.
World No. 25 New Zealand withdrew from the qualifiers, and the Philippines, as the next best team from the Asia-Oceania region at 31st, was tapped to take over the slot.
“This is truly a welcome development, and we are very happy that Gilas Pilipinas will be given a chance to compete for a spot in the Olympics,” Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio told The STAR.
Gilas, however, will go through the proverbial eye of the needle as they compete for the lone berth to the Tokyo Games at stake in the Belgrade qualifying meet.
The Filipinos will take on powerhouse rivals Serbia and Dominican Republic in Group A. The Serbians are the fifth ranked nation in the world that previously dealt Gilas a 126-67 beating when they faced off in the group stage of the 2019 FIBA World Cup. The Dominicans are ranked 12 places higher than the Philippines in the global totem pole.
The Filipinos need to finish in the Top 2 of the group to advance to the crossover semis against the first and second placers of equally tough Group B. Puerto Rico (No. 18), Italy (No. 12), and Senegal (No. 35) make up the other side of the bracket.
Winner of this OQT joins the previously qualified teams in Japan. – Olmin Leyba
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