Gilas five resumes campaign against Jordan
WUHAN, China—With two easy wins in three games, Smart Gilas Pilipinas goes into the second phase of qualifying Monday needing to win at least a couple more for a sure passage to the quarterfinals of the Fiba Asia Championship.
Ranged against the Filipinos at 3:30 p.m. is Jordan with coach Rajko Toroman fervently hoping that Fil-Ams Chris Lutz and Marcio Lassiter could finally join them.
The Nationals need the two top-level wing defenders to contain 6-foot-5 point guard Sam Daghlas and naturalized shooting guard Rasheim Wright.
As a stop-gap measure, Toroman has installed 6-6 Ranidel De Ocampo in the forward position along with Mac Baracael to help neutralize Daghlas and Wright could present.
“They’re extremely good players and tough to defend so we need to strengthen that position,” said Toroman, who achieved his goal of two wins in the first round after crushing Bahrain on Saturday.
“I’m optimistic that we can win,” said Toroman of the game against Jordan, who has an Olympic coach in American Thomas Baldwin.
“It’s a very important game since it will secure us the third position in our group (in the crossover quarterfinals).”
Smart Gilas beat Jordan in six of nine games in the last two years, including an exhibition the Nationals won a week before coming into this tournament where the top prize is a continental berth to next year’s London Olympics.
Jordan, however, had dealt two killer blows on the Philippine campaign in previous Asian championships.
The Jordanians showed coach Chot Reyes and his PBA-backed national team the door in the preliminary round of the 2007 Asian championship, which was the qualifier for the Beijing Olympics.
They repeated the trick against coach Yeng Guiao and his PBA stars in the quarterfinals of the 2009 championship in Tianjin.
The eligibility of Lutz and Lassiter were questioned by Fiba Asia officials, forcing the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to seek clearance it has yet to get from the Fiba Central Board in Geneva, Switzerland.
Without the Fiba nod, Lutz and Lassiter were forced to sit it out.
Jordan qualified from Group C along with Japan and Syria. The United Arab Emirates emerged as the No. 3 team in Group D along with China and Smart Gilas.
The Filipinos will tackle Japan tomorrow and Syria on Wednesday. After another tournament break, the knockout stage begins Friday.
Toroman said ending up third and fourth in their group would mean facing either defending champion Iran or Asian Games silver medalist South Korea in the quarters.
“We have to fight for the No. 2 spot to avoid them,” said Toroman, who is hoping that host China encounters rough sailing against Jordan and Japan.
“China will not be as dominating against Jordan and Japan. They (Japan and Jordan) also have the size and could match up with them (Chinese).”
Iran topped Group B and South Korea swept Group A while Lebanon and Chinese Taipei also shaped up as strong contenders for a quarterfinal seeding in the other second-round grouping.
Meanwhile, Fiba Asia president Sheikh Saud Bin Ali Al-Thani resigned as president of the Qatar Basketball Federation after its men’s basketball squad encountered eligibility problems in the Asian championship.
Five players from the Qatari squad, including Dallas Mavericks draftee Targuy Ngombo, were barred from the event.
Qatar forfeited against Uzbekistan and Iran before playing its farewell match against Chinese Taipei in Group B at the end of the preliminary round Saturday.
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