July 2, 2021 was an important day in Asian Basketball as three of its members tried to stay alive in the race to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
However, China, South Korea, and the Philippines, ranked no. 29, 30, and 31 in that order, succumbed to their respective opponents that extinguished their dreams of joining host Japan and Iran to the Games.
South Korea, which was coming off a 94-80 defeat at the hands of Venezuela, needed to stun Jonas Valanciunas, Domantas Sabonis, and Lithuania to stay alive in the Kaunas Olympic Qualifying Tournament over at Zalgirio Arena.
Lithuania though proved to be too much for the Koreans, bowing in a 39-point rout, 57-96.
“There’s a lot of improvements that we can do and there are upcoming games. Hopefully, we can get better moving forward,” said South Korea’s Cho Sanghyun.
After the game, action tipped off at the Aleksander Nikolic Hall in Belgrade as Gilas Pilipinas took on the Dominican Republic.
The result was a 67-94 blowout at the hands of the Dominicans as Gilas was eliminated from Olympic contention.
“Then we move on. I think that’s going to be one of the lessons that we have to take out of this because every day isn’t a great day, but every day is an opportunity to get better,” said Gilas head coach Tab Baldwin.
Finally, it was China’s turn to take the floor as it tried to continue its three-decade-long streak of Olympic berths over at the Victoria Memorial Arena in Canada.
A balanced Greek attack led by Nick Calathes overwhelmed Team Dragon, ending China’s Tokyo dreams with a 105-80 beatdown.
“This is a tuition fee they need to pay in order for them to grow up. This is a young team and we still have a long way to go,” said China head coach Du Feng.
Ricardo Ratliffe was the lead man for South Korea in their two games in Canada, averaging 21.5 points and 9.0 boards while Lee Hyunjung continued his stellar play from the Asia Cup Qualifiers, norming 14.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per contest.
Angelo Kouame, on the other hand, led the fight for Gilas, averaging 17.0 points and 6.0 boards, while complimenting him were Jordan Heading (13.0 points), Justine Baltazar (10.0 points), and SJ Belangel (6.0 assists).
Hu Mingxuan was China’s leading scorer in the OQT with a 20.0 points per outing norm. Zhou Qi put up 13.5 points and 8.5 rebounds.
Baldwin’s Gilas though still fared better than China and South Korea as their losses to Serbia and the Dominican Republic had an average losing margin of 17.0 points.
The Cho-mentored South Korea fell to Venezuela and Lithuania with a margin of 26.5 points while Du’s China had a losing margin of 27.5 points when it faced Canada and Greece.
Iran will be the only outright qualifier to the Games, doing so after placing 23rd in the 2019 World Cup — the best among Asian teams.
Japan, on the other hand, was given an outright ticket to the Olympics as it is the host of it.