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Tim Cone on Gilas’ loss to Brazil: ‘Losing Kai Sotto took away our depth’


Entering the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2024-Riga, Gilas Pilipinas Men were already shorthanded.

Starting point guard Scottie Thompson opted out of national duties to address his bad back, which he had been nursing since the FIBA World Cup 2023.

On Saturday evening (Manila time), the Philippines scratched off one more player, going down to just 10 healthy bodies.

Kai Sotto asked to be excused from the game after sustaining a bruised rib in Thursday’s game against Georgia when a 250-pound Goga Bitadze crashed onto his prone body.

Though the x-rays did not reveal any fractures, the 7-foot-3 Sotto said the pain was still unbearable two days after the incident, altering Tim Cone’s rotation against Brazil.

2024-FIBA-OQT-Gilas-vs-Brazil-Kai-Sotto-and-Mason-Amos Tim Cone on Gilas' loss to Brazil: 'Losing Kai Sotto took away our depth' Basketball Gilas Pilipinas News  - philippine sports news

(c) FIBA.basketball

“We don’t want to make excuses, but losing Kai was a big blow for us because it took away our depth in the frontline and forced June Mar Fajardo to overplay minutes,” Cone opined after the Philippines’ 60-71 loss to Brazil, which extinguished their Paris dreams.

“That kind of all mushroomed right there.”

During the group phase of the Riga tournament, the seven-time PBA Most Valuable Player averaged 29.0 minutes per game.

Though still playing 30 minutes against Brazil, Fajardo was forced to play beyond his responsibilities while sharing time with Japeth Aguilar and Carl Tamayo.

By the final frame and down 39-51, the 6-foot-10 Fajardo was already exhausted.

2024-FIBA-OQT-Gilas-vs-Brazil-June-Mar-Fajardo Tim Cone on Gilas' loss to Brazil: 'Losing Kai Sotto took away our depth' Basketball Gilas Pilipinas News  - philippine sports news

(c) FIBA.basketball

“Again, we just lacked a big man. We had to overplay our frontline. June Mar got really tired battling against No. 51 (Bruno Caboclo) and No. 6 (Christiano Felicio). Those guys were rotating on him and ganging up on him,” said Cone about Fajardo, who ended up with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

“It was a tough battle for him being there by himself.”

In a tournament like the OQT, it’s hard to make adjustments, let alone lose a player. That’s just the nature of the beast.

#ReadMore  Mariano, Thompson, Caperal did more than expected, beams Tim Cone

Now, Gilas can only lament what could have been and hope it won’t happen again on their road to the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

“Like Coach Tim said, it just takes one night to not show up and play your best, and you lose. That’s how good the teams are here,” said Dwight Ramos, who led Gilas with 13 points.

“Tonight, we didn’t play our best, and Brazil beat us.”

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