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Gilas Pilipinas center Isaac Go proud of team's showing against Serbia

Gilas Pilipinas Men gave Serbia quite the scare in the fourth quarter before the hosts picked up an 83-76 victory in Belgrade to complete their two-game sweep of the group stage. The host country will now wait for the result of the game between Italy and Puerto Rico from the other side of the bracket as they will take on the loser in the crossover semifinals.

The Philippine squad, on the other end, will need to turn things around quickly as they will only have 24 hours to prepare for their next game against the Dominican Republic with a semifinals ticket up for grabs.

"There's mixed emotions with the team. We feel good that we had a close game against a very good Serbian team but at the same time there's frustration because there's so much more we could have done," admitted Gilas Pilipinas team captain Isaac Go.

"We could have followed the game plan more. Some guys feel like they should have hit certain shots. So there's a mix of emotions with a team."

Still, the most senior member of the team is proud of their effort with a special mention of the hard work put in by the coaching staff.

"The game showed not only the character of the players but the character of the coaching staff because they did a great job in preparing us for Serbia. The whole time we were here, we were focused on Serbia and the coaches prepared us well. The players responded well to the challenges from our coaches and of course from the Serbian team," Go said.

"This shows that we are resilient. A lot of people were not expecting to win, a lot of people were not expecting us to be in such as a close game, but, being basketball players, we wanted to win. We wanted to go out there and believe that we can win, that we can compete with these guys."

For the center, their games in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers against Korea and Indonesia and even the tune-up game versus China helped tremendously with their impressive performance against Serbia.

"I think China and Serbia play similar styles in a way where they are very attack-oriented. So we had a little bit of preparation for that," he shared.

"Playing against other teams always presents different challenges and gives us different ways to improve because it's one thing going up against your teammates every day in practice and it's a different thing altogether when you go up against another team that will give you different challenges. I think in that aspect, that China game really helped. The back and forth again China really helped us improve for this game."

One more thing that the China game showed them was how to play without Dwight Ramos. The leading scorer of Gilas Pilipinas in the Qualifiers was not able to play against Serbia as he continues to nurse his injured groin.

"We understand what Dwight gives us. He's a hell of a player and a leader but we can't rely on just him. Our team has this next-man-up mentality. He left a gap but it allowed players to fill in that gap and not as individuals but collectively," the team captain said.

"We saw a lot of guys step up today to fill in the holes by taking roles that they're not normally used to. Everyone tried their best to fill that gap."

Like their practice game versus China, Gilas Pilipinas got good numbers from Jordan Heading who had 13 points and RJ Abarrientos who chipped in nine as they were aggressively looking to attack the Serbian defense.

"It's a growing experience for the team because it shows that we're more than just one guy. Anybody can play. Anybody can step up," Go said.

Unfortunately for the Philippine side, Boban Marjanovic was simply too much to handle in the end game as he scored key baskets to put the game away.

"He's really big and strong. He knows how to get to his spots and he knows how to use what he has to get an advantage," Go said of Marjanovic who dominated with 25 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 12 of 18 from the field.

"He was stronger than Kai (Sotto) and taller than Ange (Kouame) and once he got to his spots, he scored. You can really see why he's in the NBA level because he leads his team and controls the defense and he can pass the ball actually. He's an NBA caliber player and now that will become a standard for us because we got to feel what it's like to play against Euro-League stars and NBA players."

Even though the team is still on a high after competing well with such a strong team, Go knows that they will have to do their best to forget about that game as soon as possible with the Dominican Republic coming up next.

"First, we need to forget about this game. It's still fresh so the guys are still reflecting on what they could have done better. We need to get over that game, rest, and hydrate," Go said.

"We already received our scouting report from our coaches for the Dominican Republic so we're going to go through it before going to bed. We just need to change our mindset because that's tournament basketball. You don't get a lot of days off and there's a quick turnaround. So for some of these guys who felt frustrated from the Serbia game, they'll have a chance to play well tomorrow. We're excited for it."