Smart Gilas needs early victories for good seeding in Fiba Asia

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MANILA, Philippines – Smart Gilas Pilipinas should win at least four of its six games in the group stages to secure a comfortable seeding in the quarterfinals of the Fiba Asia Championship.

“From there, anything can happen in the knockout stage,” said Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman before the Philippine five tackled Qatar in a tuneup match Thursday night at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan.

The Nationals are bunched in Group D with host China, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in the opening round of the Asian championship, slated Sept. 15 to 25 in Wuhan, China.

They will most likely clash with Group C contenders Japan, Jordan and Syria in the second round with the win-loss record in the previous stage to be carried over to determine the rankings in the quarterfinals.

If the four-victory target is accomplished, Smart Gilas could face anyone from the ranks of Iran, Lebanon, Qatar, South Korea and Chinese Taipei in the quarterfinals, where the survivors dispute slots in the gold-medal match, according to Toroman.

The champion goes to the 2012’ London Olympics while the next two teams advance to the 12-nation Fiba Olympic qualifying tournament, which offers three more tickets to the Olympiad.

“Our goal for the first round is two wins, and I think we can do that,” said Toroman. “If a third win comes, that will be great. Two more wins in the second round will put us in either second or third place for the quarterfinals.”

The Filipino dribblers, absent from the Olympics in the last 40 years, are scheduled to leave for Wuhan on September 13 and open their bid against UAE on September 15.

They will bring along four PBA players – Asi Taulava of Meralco and Talk ‘N Text’s Jimmy Alapag, Kelly Williams and Ranidel De Ocampo – to beef up the Smart Gilas core of Marcus Douthit, Chris Tiu, Mark Barroca, JV Casio, Chris Lutz, Marcio Lassiter, Japeth Aguilar, Mac Baracael, Dylan Ababou and Jason Ballesteros.

“It’s going to be important for us to come to Wuhan, really hit our strides, make a good run early and build some momentum,” said Alapag, the PBA’s reigning MVP.

“Hopefully, it would carry us to the quarterfinals and up to the medal round.”

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