MANILA — South Sudan’s national basketball team kept their Olympic dreams alive with a resounding 87-68 victory over the Philippines in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Classification 17-32 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, August 31.
Carlik Jones came agonizingly close to achieving the first-ever triple-double in World Cup history, earning him the TCL Player of the Game.
The South Sudanese squad showcased their determination to secure victory in a game that marked the first-ever meeting between South Sudan and the Philippines on the basketball court.
South Sudan surged ahead right from the start, establishing a commanding 16-3 lead in the opening minutes. The first quarter saw them extend their advantage to as much as 17 points, demonstrating their prowess on both ends of the court. However, the passionate crowd of 9,250 at the Manila Araneta Coliseum spurred the Philippines to mount a comeback, narrowing the gap to just four points at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Carlik Jones was the star of the show, nearly etching his name into the record books with a remarkable performance. Jones recorded 17 points, nine rebounds, and a staggering 14 assists, with just one turnover. His near triple-double was a testament to his exceptional skills and leadership.
Jones’s performance was just one facet of South Sudan’s success, as they held the Philippines to a mere 35 percent shooting, including 38 percent on two-pointers. South Sudan also displayed exceptional ball control, committing only nine turnovers, and capitalized on fast break opportunities, accumulating a 29-14 advantage in fast break points.
With this victory, South Sudan remains in contention for the 2024 Olympics and the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments. Their next pivotal match awaits against fellow African contenders, Angola, on Saturday, September 2. On the other hand, the Philippines find themselves searching for their first win at the home World Cup and must overcome the odds when they face China later on Saturday to keep their Olympic Qualifying Tournament hopes alive.
South Sudan’s coach, Royal Ivey, commended his team’s collective effort and Jones’s leadership: “Carlik has been great for us. He’s our leader, our quarterback on and off the court. He’s a true leader, and that’s what leaders do. They bring home the fight.”
Jones remained focused on the team’s victory: “As great as that would have been, I just wanted to win.”
South Sudan’s center, Weynen Gabriel, emphasized their determination: “Today we showed a lot of strength against adversity when we let up the lead and fought back and showed ourselves that we really want to do this.”
The loss was a bitter pill for the Philippines, as coach Chot Reyes noted their struggles with shooting: “It’s unfortunate that this was the time for us to shoot under 40 percent from the field.”
Despite the tough loss, Philippines’ center AJ Edu encouraged his teammates: “Just really proud of everyone. I just want to encourage everyone to keep their heads up because we still have one more game.”