Almost but not quite as Gilas Pilipinas falls to mighty Serbia

Believe, play without fear, play without intimidation.

All these the Gilas Pilipinas young guns did in a whale of a fight barely survived by world No. 5 and host team Serbia, 83-76, in their Olympic qualifier matchup Wednesday night (early Thursday morning in Manila) in Belgrade.

Filipino cage fans stayed awake in ungodly hours, stayed glued on TV and stood witness to the fearlessness and boldness of the Gilas boys hanging around versus the Rio Games silver medalists.

But Serbia escaped through and thus advanced to the semifinals while sending Gilas to a do-or-die setto with the Dominican Republic.

Both at 1-1 in Group A, the Filipinos and their Dominican Republic rivals clash for a semis seat versus the winner in the Italy-Puerto Rico matchup in Group B.

Minus top gun Dwight Ramos (with an injured groin), Gilas pushed Serbia to the limit, with the Nationals even enjoying the lead at 73-72 with just 3:50 left in the game.

But as he did in their 94-76 win over the Dominican Republic, 7-foot-4 center Boban Marjanovik took charge in the crunch and saved the Serbians from what could have been a big embarrassment.

Marjanovik, a center for the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA, came through with 25 points and 10 rebounds while gunners Ognjen Dobric, Milos Teodesic and Danilo Andjusic fired at least 12 markers each.

Ange Kouame tossed in 17 points plus seven boards, two assists and one steal, Jordan Heading drained 4-of-5 treys and finished with 13 markers while Kai Sotto and Justine Baltazar added 10 points each for Gilas.

The scores:

Serbia 83 – Marjanovic 25, Dobric 16, Teodosic 13, Andjusic 12, Petrusev 8, Davidovac 5, Milosavljevic 2, Jovic 2, Avramovic 0.

Philippines 76 – Kouame 17, Heading 13, Sotto 10, Baltazar 10, Abarrientos 9, Tamayo 5, Navarro 4, Go 4, Belangel 2, Nieto 2.

Quarterscores: 22-16, 45-34, 67-62, 83-76.

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