MANILA, Philippines–With his team winless in four games and losing its chance for an outright Olympic berth, Kai Sotto is now focused on Gilas Pilipinas’ final match against China in the Fiba World Cup 2023 on Saturday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“[Saturday’s] our last game so we’ll just give our best. As a player, I will never enter a game already having given up,” Sotto said. “This is our last game so we will leave everything on the floor.”
Amid their second-half surge led by Dwight Ramos and Jordan Clarkson, the Philippines continued to come up short after South Sudan caught fire in the final period of an 87-68 rout in the classification phase on Thursday.
Sotto, who was part of the Gilas’ late run, finished with eight points, five rebounds, and three blocks. The 7-foot-3 big man vows to keep on fighting as Gilas prepares for its duel with China.
“It’s the fourth game and [our] fourth loss. I think we’re just gonna look out for what we can improve on for the next game and tomorrow we’ll focus on China,” the young Gilas center told reporters in Filipino.
The 21-year-old big man, who dunked a lob from AJ Edu to turn South Sudan’s 21-point first-half lead into four with 7:28 left in the match, admitted that their slow start made it harder for them in the crucial game.
South Sudan stormed ahead after scoring 12 of the first 14 points of the game.
“They made a lot of threes so it’s really hard to catch up when your opponent shot well. We had a slow start and gave up a lot of points in the first quarter. Third quarter, we fought back but we failed to sustain our runs and the momentum in the last two quarters,” Sotto said. “We still have a lot of lapses and things to improve on my game as an individual and as a team. We will focus on China tomorrow and work on those lapses and make some adjustments.”
— FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 🏆 (@FIBAWC) August 31, 2023
The Philippines suffered its ninth straight loss in the World Cup dating back to its winless stint in the 2019 edition in Foshan, China, and hopes to end that slump on Saturday.
“Obviously, our team is always all out. We just have a lot of lapses but sometimes it can’t be avoided in basketball. I think all around we did a pretty good job effort-wise. We gave our all but you can’t get everything you want. They made shots, they played really well, they’re a really good team. Props to them,” Sotto said.
With Gilas facing China for the last time in their hosting of the World Cup, Sotto urged the fans to keep on supporting the national squad as it fights for the country’s pride on Saturday.
“Just keep on supporting us. Obviously, we’re trying our best every day in practice and in games. It’s a bit frustrating that we couldn’t get wins, especially in front of the home crowd,” Sotto said. “If the fans are disappointed, imagine how much more disappointed the players are after all the hard work they did.”
“We need a quick turnaround so we need to move on. Whatever we learned here, we will apply in our next game and we’ll just give our best every time we step on the court,” he added.
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