After getting the opponent it wanted since a month ago, Gilas Pilipinas now tries to step closer to the world championship when it tangles with Kazakhstan today in the quarterfinals of the 27th Fiba Asia championship at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
The Filipinos have had Kazakhstan in their wish list ever since the tournament draw, but Gilas coach Chot Reyes, saying there’s no such thing as a sure win in basketball, expects the toughest outing for the host team so far in the 8:30 p.m. encounter.
“We know how dangerous Kazakhstan is,” Reyes said Wednesday night, moments after Gilas formalized its No. 1 seeding in their group that sealed their spot in the knockout phase against the beefy Kazakhs.
“They have great shooters and a great point guard,” Reyes added.
The Philippines will come into the match as the slight favorite following wins in its last three outings in the preliminaries and a victory over the Kazakhs by three points in a tuneup match just days before the start of this 15-nation event.
But the Filipinos are bracing for a rugged evening with Reyes commenting that “there’s no such thing as a sure win” after the scare his boys got against lowly Hong Kong on Wednesday after impressive wins over Japan and Qatar.
Marcus Douthit welcomed yesterday’s break to rest a hurting right shin since the naturalized 6-foot-10 center will again be the focal point of the Filipinos’ game on both ends of the floor.
Kazakhstan has big frontliners and likes to give hard screens to set up its shooters. It also plays hard-nosed defense like no one else does here.
The key, it seems, in hurdling the Kazakhs is controlling point guard Jerri Jonson, a 6-foot slasher who is rumored to be nursing a slight leg injury, though he has been used extensively in the last three games.
Containing Johnson could get half of the job done for Reyes and his gang, and stopping him will be the responsibility of Jason Castro, LA Tenorio and skipper Jimmy Alapag.
The Philippines has an edge in the frontline with more athletic big men Ranidel de Ocampo, Marc Pingris, Japeth Aguilar and June Mar Fajardo backing up Douthit.
Team Philippines’ outside guns must also connect to open things up inside for Douthit and Reyes has a lineup full of snipers in Jeff Chan, Larry Fonacier and Gary David.
The winner of this match advances opposite the winner of the South Korea-Qatar game in the Final Four, where one of three berths to the Worlds in Madrid will be at stake.