PH ready for Rio Olympic q’lifier

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AFTER clinching one of three continental berths in the 2014 Fiba World Cup in Spain, Gilas Pilipinas will also embark on an ambitious trip to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Basketball godfather Manny V. Pangilinan yesterday said he is open to bringing back the Fiba Asia Championship on home soil in 2015. The tournament serves as the qualifier for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics the following year.

And though there’s only one Olympic slot available for Asia in the 2015 tournament, Pangilinan expressed interest in hosting the Fiba Asia tournament just the same.

“This is for the country, we’re ready to play host again,” said Pangilinan, president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and team owner of Talk ‘N Text and Meralco in the Philippine Basketball Association.

The SBP, through Pangilinan’s group of companies, spent about P70 million for the Manila hosting of the world championship qualifier, a big investment that, according to basketball pundits, has reaped dividends tenfold for the country.

Gilas, a collection of PBA stars strengthened by naturalized slotman Marcus Douthit, made it to the Worlds after beating South Korea, 86-79, Saturday night at Mall of Asia Arena.

Douthit was pulled out from the game late in the second quarter due to a hurting shin and never came back. Do-it-all power forward Ranidel de Ocampo and low-post defender Marc Pingris took over Douthit’s chores before a roaring crowd of over 18,000.

“When Douthit went out, I was worried,” said Pangilinan.

“But the crowd stepped in when Douthit left. The crowd subsituted for Douthit, it (Gilas) inspired them further.”

The Philippines joined Iran along with London Olympic gold medalist United States and host Spain as early qualifiers in the world championship.

South Korea became the last Asian qualifier behind the Filipinos and Iranians by crushing  Chinese Taipei, 75-57, in their battle for third place yesterday.

Gilas also tried to make it to the 2012 London Olympics but placed fourth in the 2011 Asian championship in Wuhan, China.

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