Gilas Pilipinas routs India, faces tougher games ahead
CHANGSHA CITY, China—Playing as a heavy favorite again, Gilas Pilipinas battled through complacency by using the work ethic that makes champions.
“We talked endlessly about mental preparation and being ready to play,” coach Tab Baldwin told an international media curious about the Filipinos’ bum start in a 99-65 victory on Tuesday over India in which they yielded the first-quarter lead.
The victory, the Filipinos’ fourth in five matches, earned them top seeding in Group E of the Fiba Asia Olympic Qualifier at Changsha Social Work College Gym here.
“(We talked) of all the things that coaches try to do to find that magic formula of how you get your team to play as a sort of the heavy favorite,” Baldwin said.
“We were kind of flat (in the first half), again their zone (defense) contributed to that. But again our energy guys kind of got us through the first half and, as a team, we found a lot of energy in the second half.”
Gilas was given the overwhelming favorite tag before the game after the Filipinos’ dismantling of defending champion Iran, 87-73, on Monday that not only gave Team Philippines a smoother road to the gold-medal round but made the Iranians’ journey as bumpy as it could be.
It took a while for the Philippines to crank up its offense, with a hard-nosed defense right from the opening tip the only thing that prevented the Indians from dominating in the first two periods.
Terrence Romeo came off the bench to toss in eight of his 20 points in the second frame. With the Philippine defense not yielding an inch, the Filipinos finally gathered some steam in the latter part of the third quarter to start putting the Indians away.
“Kudos to our boys for coming out in the second half and really putting the Indians under pressure,” Baldwin said.
It took a 24-0 Gilas burst early in the fourth quarter to totally snuff the fight out of India.
In that decisive stretch, Romeo, whom Baldwin sort of restricted from going back to his one-on-one ways in the first four games, scored nine of his output.
The cold Gilas start had many in the small Filipino gallery sitting on pins and needles as memories of a 75-73 loss to Palestine on Wednesday last week came to mind.
Battling without pause
The Philippines wasn’t supposed to lose to a team like Palestine on that day but being in such a relaxed state against a foe they barely knew, had the Filipinos getting the shorter end of the game—one of the biggest upsets in Asian basketball in the modern age.
Against India, the Filipinos battled without pause and were simply too much to handle when they got into the groove.
Gilas swept all three of its second-round group assignments and finished with a 4-1 card. It will next clash with Lebanon, the No. 4 squad coming from Group F, on Thursday.
The Lebanese blew hot and cold against Jordan before prevailing, 80-76, to dislodge the Jordanians from the last spot and gain a crack at the Philippines.
Iran will now have to go through South Korea in the quarterfinals on Thursday and possibly have to clash with host China in the Final Four the day after.
Maybe next is Qatar
The Philippines, which hasn’t won this tournament since 1986 when it was still known as the Asian Basketball Confederation, will most likely have Qatar as a semifinal foe, the Qataris being installed as heavy favorites against Japan in their quarterfinal duel.
“This is where we came to be. We didn’t necessarily plan to be here in this way, through the pathway that we took. But we’re here,” Baldwin added after getting half of the job done and steering the squad to the KO stages.
“Now the games are tough. All the opponents are tough,” he said after scouting the Lebanese over Jordan together with his staff.
The tournament takes its final break on Wednesday, giving Baldwin all the time to dissect the Lebanon game and prepare for their quarterfinal clash.
“We’ll have to prepare and get ready, so the players have to prepare themselves physically,” Baldwin went on. “The coaches will do the mental preparation and then we have to bring it all together and work as a team, and that’s what we’re supposed to do.”
A total of six players scored in twin digits against the Indians, with naturalized center Andray Blatche scattering 15, Ranidel de Ocampo scattering 13 and Jason Castro, Calvin Abueva and Marc Pingris tossing in 12 each.
It was by far the most balanced offensive that Gilas had displayed here and its total output the second biggest after tossing in 101 points in a rout of Hong Kong in the preliminaries.
The Filipinos hit 9-of-26 attempts from three-point zones with Castro making all of his two tries and Romeo draining three.
Romeo was a perfect 5-of-5 from the stripe and also had three steals, all of them off India’s point guards whom he gave a hard time bringing the ball downcourt.
Battle for the rebounds
Blatche clearly played like he was pacing himself, unlike in the game against Iran. Although Blatche snared down only three rebounds, the Filipinos still won out in the rebounding battle, 50-38, with the undersized Abueva and Intal grabbing seven each.
Skipper Vishesh Bhriguvanshi paced the Indians with 21 points built around five three-pointers, with Amritpal Singh shooting 18 and grabbing 13 rebounds.
India, despite the loss, will qualify as the No. 4 seed in Group E and will clash with host China, the top seed in Group F, for a place in the Final Four.
GILAS PILIPINAS 99—Romeo 20, Blatche 15, De Ocampo 13, Abueva 12, Pingris 12, Castro 12, Hontiveros 6, Ganuelas 5, Intal 2, Norwood 2, Thoss 0, Taulava 0.
INDIA 65—Bhriguvanshi 21, Am Singh 18, Amj Singh 11, Yad Singh 7, Pari 5, Shinde 3, Kaushik 0, Prakash 0, Arumugam 0, Gill 0.
Quarters: 16-17, 42-36, 65-50, 99-65
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