NHA TRANG, Vietnam—National youth coach Olsen Racela expects his boys to raise their game as the Energen Pilipinas Under-16 team heads into the tough stretch of its Fiba Asia U16 campaign.
“As we go deeper into the tournament, there’s less room for mistakes,” said Racela.
The Philippines nailed a quarterfinals berth with a 107-28 rout of Qatar Saturday night.
After Qatar, the young Nationals will take on Saudi Arabia at 7 p.m. Sunday (8 p.m. Manila time) and powerhouse Japan on Monday at the Khan Hoa Sports Center here.
“We need to work on our field-goal shooting. Our shooters have yet to click,” said Racela. “But these boys surprise me all the time. When we play stronger teams, usually their level of play goes higher.”
The 12 teams that qualified in the preliminary round were divided into two groups of six teams each.
With the record from the preliminaries carried over, the Philippines only needs one more win to clinch one of the eight berths in the knockout quarterfinal stage.
But Racela said they are aiming for a higher seeding to stay clear of an early battle with the favorites in the event that dangles two slots to the 2012 Fiba U17 World Championship.
“Being No. 1 at the end of the second round is important if we want to avoid playing China early,” said Racela.
If the Philippines completes a second-round sweep of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Japan, it will claim the top spot in Group F.
Defending champion China and South Korea, the runner-up in the tournament’s last edition in 2009, are battling in Group E along with Lebanon, India, Chinese Taipei and Iraq.
“Japan looks pretty strong, so we’ll have our hands full in the second round,” said Jordan Heading, the Fil-Aussie wingman who buried a game-high 22 points in the Philippines’ 111-25 trampling of Vietnam last Thursday.