Gilas Pilipinas vs New Zealand: Score, Reaction for FIBA Olympic Qualifying 2016

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJuly 6, 2016

Philippines players Andray Blatche, right, and Gabe Norwood, left, help teammate Lewis Tenorio during the Group B Basketball World Cup match against Senegal in Seville, Spain, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. The 2014 Basketball World Cup competition will take place in various cities in Spain from Aug. 30 through to Sept. 14. (AP Photo/Miguel Angel Morenatti)
Miguel Angel Morenatti/Associated Press

The Philippines' dream of reaching the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro is dead.

Corey Webster, Tai Webster, Thomas Abercrombie and Isaac Fotu each scored in double figures, as New Zealand held on for an 89-80 win over Gilas Pilipinas to eliminate the host country before a deflated crowd.

New Zealand and France will face off Thursday for the Group B championship. Both countries will advance to the knockout round regardless of that result, where they will vie for one of the three final spots in this year's Summer Games.

Like they did against a more talented French team, Gilas battled down the stretch despite being down for nearly the entire game. New Zealand built its lead as high as 13 points in the second half and spent most of the third quarter ahead by double digits, but former NBA forward Andray Blatche led the charge on a near-comeback.

Blatche, who finished with 30 points and seven rebounds, got the Philippines within two points on a pair of occasions in the fourth quarter, but Gilas could just never completely close the gap. After a Blatche two-pointer with 7:40 remaining drew the game to 62-60, New Zealand went on an 8-2 run from which the Philippines never recovered.Β 

New Zealand held a lead of no fewer than five points the rest of the way and put on the jets down the stretch. The Tall Blacks pushed their lead to 78-65 after an eight-point run and kicked up the pace offensively as Gilas struggled to keep up.

For the second straight contest, it was the Philippines' leaky defense that proved to be its undoing. New Zealand shot 48 percent from the floor overall and knocked down eight threes, not having any issues with the game's uptempo pace.

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Tai Webster led the way with a 25-point, 11-rebound double-double. The 21-year-old, who is heading into his senior season at Nebraska, expertly drove into the teeth of the Gilas defense. He finished with a team-high 10 free throws while adding three assists.

Corey Webster did not have the same all-around game as his brother, scoring 23 points but failing to record a single assist or rebound. But the former New Orleans Pelicans tryout did knock down a trio of threes to help space the floor.

Corey Webster and Fotu accounted for six of the eight New Zealand makes from distance. Fotu, a 6'8" stretch big man who had an outside shot of going in the 2015 NBA draft before being unselected, had 17 points, five rebounds and three assists in a strong outing. It's possible he winds up getting an NBA look as a camp body if he's able to lead New Zealand to Rio.

Abercrombie, the 29-year-old mainstay of this roster, had a strong second half to finish with 13 points and seven rebounds. He was on the floor for a team-high 36 minutes.

In addition to Blatche, Jayson William (13 points, three assists) and June Mar Fajardo (11 points, four rebounds) scored in double figures for the Philippines.

The loss clinches an 11th straight Olympic Games where the Philippines basketball program has failed to participate. Gilas last qualified in 1980 but was part of a contingent of nations that boycotted the Moscow Olympics during the Cold War.

While the likes of Blatche and Jordan Clarkson (who did not participate in the qualifier) have given hope to the future of Filipino basketball, the last two days have showed there is still work to do.

New Zealand, meanwhile, is one step closer to reaching its first Summer Games since 2004.Β