‘WIN AT ALL COST’

Gilas Pilipinas faces Kazakhstan as Fiba Asia knockout phase gets going

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Smart Gilas Pilipinas arrives at Napier, New Zealand. Photo from head coach Chot Reyes Twitter account

MANILA, Philippines–Larry Fonacier was working out at the hotel gym while the Qatar-Chinese Taipei game was being played on TV. LA Tenorio was in his room, catching up on much-needed rest. Gabe Norwood and Jimmy Alapag? They were in the lobby, along with several other people, cheering for Qatar.

“I didn’t expect the outcome,” said Fonacier of the Qatar victory that gave Gilas Pilipinas the top seed in Group E of the quarterfinal bracket of the FIBA Asia Championship. “It was already playing in our minds that we would be facing China in the quarterfinals.”

You think? Guess what assistant coach Ryan Gregorio was doing when he received the call to complete a scouting report of Kazakhstan?

“I was finishing up the scouting report on China,” said Gregorio, whipping out his tablet and showing the Inquirer that he had about three players to go before completing his report.

Detoured from the original route to the FIBA World Cup it had plotted, Gilas Pilipinas suddenly found itself back on that road, nailing the No. 1 slot and taking on Kazakhstan, obviously the lightest foe from Group F, which is also made up of defending champion China, South Korea and tournament steamroller Iran.

“Qatar did us one big favor,” beamed Marcus Douthit.

Now that the universe unfolded as it should, it’s time for Gilas Pilipinas to do its part. Because one thing’s for sure: Kazakhstan is no pushover.

“We know how dangerous Kazakhstan is as a team and it’s going to take all our effort as a team on Friday to win,” head coach Chot Reyes said after a struggling 67-55 victory over Hong Kong Wednesday evening at the Mall of Asia Arena.

“We still have a job to do,” said Norwood.

While Qatar certainly gave the Philippines a reprieve by rerouting a path that was headed for heavyweight China, it was only because it taped up Gilas Pilipinas’ shredded blueprint. Chinese Taipei’s loss did not necessarily gift the Philippines any advantage.

“When you think of it, all we really achieved is what we set out to do in the first place. We wanted to be No. 1; we wanted Kazakhstan as a quarterfinal opponent,” said former national player Olsen Racela, the San Mig Coffee assistant coach who moonlights as a TV analyst for the tournament. “We really haven’t gained anything yet. We just got back to the original plan.”

“Now, we have to do our part.”

“There’s no way we can go out against Kazakhstan playing the way we did against Hong Kong,” added Racela.

The Philippines went scoreless in the opening minutes against Hong Kong, fell behind by double digits early and needed a huge second half to pull off the win that cemented the No. 1 spot.

It was a win so ugly, defense specialist Marc Pingris waxed philosophical about what needed to be done going into Friday’s 8:30 p.m. showdown against the Kazakhs.

Kailangan linisin namin ang dumi na ginawa namin (We need to clean the mess we created),” he said.

Pingris is expected to shoulder a huge chunk of the defense in the low block, but the onus for stops will fall on the team’s point guards. Tenorio, Alapag and Jayson Castro will have their hands full trying to contain Kazakhstan dynamo Jerri Jonson.

“He is a perfect fit for them,” said Racela. “They’ve really never had a point guard as skilled and as athletic who can set the other guys up.”

“Right this very moment, [Johnson] is all that I can think of,” said Tenorio. “If I get a chance to play on Friday, my sole focus will be on trying to stop Johnson. Everything starts from him when it comes to Kazakhstan. He’s the engine. He scores and he sets his team up.”

“If I play, my focus will be to pressure him defensively. Never mind the scoring,” added Tenorio, who was asleep when a friend watching the Qatar-Chinese Taipei match phoned him to inform him what had just happened.

The fact that Tenorio and Pingris, who singled out Mikhail Yevstigneyev and Anton Ponomarev as the players he wants to put the cuffs on, were both thinking of Kazakhstan after stepping out of their dugout following that Hong Kong match is a good sign for Reyes.

It means Gilas Pilipinas is mentally prepared to face the tough Kazakhs after already conditioning themselves about playing the Big Red Machine.

“In the end, we still have to take care of business,” said Fonacier. “Either way, the opponent is going to be tough. We just have to show up and play our best.”

“We have to toughen up. Kazakhstan is more physical than any team we’ve played so far so we have to be ready for that,” he added.

“For us, it’s win at all cost,” said Tenorio.

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  • oh_noh

    woooooohooooooo.!!!

    (PHP) 88-58 (KAZ) – Final

  • oh_noh

    pumutok na si el granada!!!

    PH 32-15 KAZ

    • oh_noh

      japeth muna… obvious na hirap si kuya marcus

    • oh_noh

      PH 51-40 KAZ – end of 1st half

      kapit pinas!!!

    • oh_noh

      PH 67-49 KAZ – end of 3rd

      galing ng pinoys!!!

  • DennisApolinario

    Nagtataka ako kung bakit ginamit nang husto ni Coach Chot si Douthit vs. Hongkong samantalang injured sya. Sana pinagpahinga na lang para sa laban against Kazakhstan. Sa tingin ko naman kahit hindi naglaro si Douthit vs. Hongkong, mananalo pa rin tayo dahil siguradong mag-i-step up yung ibang players.. Maaaring hindi naging ganun kaganda ang laro ng Hongkong kung wala si Douthit at si Japeth at si Junmar ang ibinabad. Tuloy, nabangko si Junmar. Nawawalan na tuloy ng kumpiyansa yung tao.

    • oh_noh

      kung napanood mo ang laban, 3rd qtr na tayo nakalamang. and, 4 mins. remaining in the 4th qtr, 4 lang ang lamang natin! *high blood talaga*

      clearly, coaching mistake (again) not to impose our real game against hk in the early stages…

      Games are won by players, not coaches = Games are lost by coaches, not players :)

      go gilas!!!

  • Tanong mo sa hotdog ni Aljur!

    Galingan nyo gilas! Good luck!

  • Lemuel Vargas

    And with the Kazakhs..

    Go. go. Gilas!!! Let those treys come like water!!! (the only caveat is let those treys go inside the basket w/c will require composure and not collapsing again on the 4th quarter..

  • FibaMonster

    Things to improve on by GILAS:
    1. Be defensive minded and let the offense come second, give everything into defense until the final seconds is over.
    2. Gilas has been killed by slow starts, they need to change this because its hard to play catchup specially when were down big. From the get go they have to go all out.
    3. When we are up by a lot of points, never get complacent, when your opponent is down, bury them deeper, never think you have already won the game because once the momentum changes, its anybodys ball game.
    4. 4th quarter has been our achilles heel, Gilas hasnt been performing well on the last quarters and tend to lose focus, they need to be mentally tough and focus the whole basketball game.
    5. Chots rotation, this has been a big question mark, i hope i dont offend you sir chot but over the games played by gilas, you were not able to rotate your guys correctly, specially on the taiwan game, when your guys is in a streak or momentum keep them on the floor, as the saying goes ‘Strike while the Iron is hot’

    6. Chots coaching style sometimes demoralizes the team because its like hes lecturing and shouting, again coach chot i would like to apologize this is just an observation, when the team is in a dire situation try to think of a way to boost your teams morale or if your not a man of word, just draw out plays that would give your team the best chance to win and be that basketball mind, it wouldnt hurt to be really the “COACH” instead of being too emotional.

    7. This is not really a finding but as the national team you guys are representing the whole Filipino community and its your obligation to live up to those dreams specially to those fans who are cheering and supporting you, we dont expect you to win by so many points, to us as long as you give your hearts out and show that competitive spirit, thats enough for us.

  • flybizz777

    one game @ a time…Laban Pilipinas! We cannot undo the past but certainly can alter the future.

  • indiosbravos2002

    If we are already having a hard time with the “lightest” of group F. Then we are in serious jeopardy. Sooner or later –if we win the Kazahs game– we will face the inevitable. Sayang talaga original Gilas team under kay Toroman. If they stayed together, I think we could have a much cohesive and stronger team.

  • wawa2172

    My guess, is if PH pass Kazakh, the national team will place 4th. No way our national team could beat China, Korea or Iran in the semis. It is more of a miracle for the Philippines to beat any of the top three, its next to impossible. The PH have never defeated any of the top 3 in Asia for a long time now.

    • Sober_One

      Based on the previous results, you may be correct. But as Coach Toroman intuitively observed, the electrifying hometown crowd may be the deciding factor. In fact, he said he will not be surprised if Gilas will win the crown because of the crowd. Whether you believe this or not, you can make your bet. Bilog ang bola!

    • upupperclassman

      Should PH get as far as 4th only, then it is high time that we forget about playing basketball.

  • oh_noh

    so far… we have an ineffective fajardo (mahina sa coach) and david (malakas sa coach). if still possible, replace one of them with belga (sure you know who’ll be the odd man out).

    “If I play, my focus will be to pressure him defensively. Never mind the scoring,” added Tenorio

    maski si tenorio, hindi siguradong mabibigyan ng tamang playing time in favor of the… favorites of course :)

    mabuhay gilas!!!

    • DennisApolinario

      I agree with your inference. Sa tingin ko, minsan nagpa-playing favorites si Coach Chot. Sana mali ang obserbasyon ko.

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