Smart Gilas cagers on track for Fiba AsiaBy June Navarro
Philippine Daily Inquirer
NEW TAIPEI CITY, Taiwan—Under the old tournament format, Smart Gilas Pilipinas could have ended up second place behind Korea, the country’s best Jones Cup finish in 13 years.
But regardless of the outcome of Saturday night’s semifinals, PH five coach Rajko Toroman said the Nationals are on track to reach their peak in time for the Fiba Asia Championship next month in Wuhan, China.
The Filipinos were battling for a seat in the Finals against back-to-back champion Iran with Korea and host Chinese Taipei colliding in the other semifinal clash at presstime. The Finals is set today.
Organizers veered away from the usual format, where the team with the most number of victories captures the crown on the last playdate, after South Africa pulled out at the last minute.
“We have to be satisfied,” said Toroman. “We’re using the tournament as preparation and our performance showed that we could play anybody in Asia.”
After pulling off a stunner over an Iranian five led by back-to-back Fiba Asia MVP Hamed Haddadi of the Memphis Grizzlies, the Filipinos drubbed Chinese Taipei, Malaysia and United Arab Emirates while barely escaping Japan.
The two setbacks against Jordan and Korea were decided in the closing minutes, leaving Smart Gilas with a 5-2 record and the No. 2 spot going into last night’s semifinals.
The Iranians also wound up with a similar 5-2 record while Jordan and Chinese Taipei had four victories and three losses at the end of the eliminations.
The Philippines last won the Jones Cup in 1998 through a PBA-backed squad known as the Centennial Team. The national dribblers also captured the crown in 1981 and 1985 with Northern Cement Consolidated.
JV Casio, who scored 27 points against Korea, will have to stay on the bench for the rest of the PH campaign after straining his left knee.