MANILA, Philippines—If you talk to anybody from Gilas Pilipinas, you’d know the team has pretty much resigned itself to a quarterfinal showdown with defending champion China in the FIBA Asia Championship.
It was not the route the Philippines had initially plotted in its attempted return to the world stage, but it is a route they will now have to take after dropping an 84-79 decision to Chinese Taipei Sunday night.
“Pending a miracle, I think we just arranged a date with China,” said national coach Chot Reyes after the Philippines turned back Qatar, 80-70, Tuesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
“It looks like it’s going to be China,” said assistant coach Jong Uichico. That was before the game even started.
“We’re going to have to play them anyway,” said Jimmy Alapag. That was days before dealing the Qataris their first loss in the tournament.
The only way the Philippines gets a detour from its current path is if Jarvis Hayes and the Qatar national team suddenly goes medieval on Chinese Taipei Wednesday and hands the Taiwanese a beating that doesn’t go beyond 15 points.
You know, good ol’ quotient.
The team could have held its punches against Qatar, accepted a loss and looked forward to a potential showdown with South Korea, but in no way was that an option for the proud Gilas Pilipinas squad.
“We were fully aware of the situation but there was no way we were coming out with anything less than our best,” said Reyes.
“Not with all the people coming out to support us.”
The Philippines will be facing really tall odds against the regional heavyweight, even if NBA-trained Yi Jianlian and starting point guard Liu Xiaoyu, who didn’t play in a rout of Iran, nursing injuries still.
Both are expected to suit up in the knockout rounds, starting with the quarterfinal against Gilas Pilipinas.
“That will make a really big difference,” said Uichico, smiling.
The two are also being evaluated daily.
“Yi has been practicing already,” said China coach Panagiotis Giannakis. “We try to keep him fresh. Until now, we saved a lot of energy for him. Maybe tomorrow, we could use him because he needs to get in the flow for the knockout games.”
On Liu, Giannakis said: “We saw him today, he has a problem. Tomorrow, we hope to start him to play a little bit.”
“He wants to play, we know that. Yi and him want to play,” added Giannakis.