Filipinos, New Zealanders in crucial collision tonight | Inquirer Sports

Filipinos, New Zealanders in crucial collision tonight

By: - Reporter / @MusongINQ
/ 01:13 AM July 06, 2016

Philippines vs France in a FIBA OQT match at Mall of Asia Arena. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

Philippines vs France in a FIBA OQT match at Mall of Asia Arena. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

TODAY could either be for No. 1 or, more likely, survival for Gilas Pilipinas when it clashes with New Zealand to end its first-round play in the Manila Olympic Qualifying Tournament at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.

Up against NBA superstar Tony Parker and France at press time, the Filipinos battle the Tall Blacks in the 9 p.m. game today with a win giving them a ride to the crossover Final Four that happens on Saturday.

New Zealand is the only country in the Philippines’ bracket which does not have an NBA player, active or otherwise. But that doesn’t mean the Tall Blacks will be easy pickings.

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Corey Webster is the player to watch from New Zealand, a team Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin handled in the past.

Webster, who tried out with the New Orleans Pelicans in the 2015 NBA off-season, is a champion player with several teams in New Zealand’s National Basketball League.

This will be the Kiwis’ first match in the tournament and the Tall Blacks are aware that this could be a KO game for them as well, considering that powerhouse France will be their second assignment.

“I have no doubt we can achieve it (winning a berth in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics),” New Zealand coach Paul Henare said recently.

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He may have overlooked the fact that Canada and France are bristling with NBA stars.

“These young men (Tall Blacks) will do themselves, their families and the game of basketball in New Zealand proud,” Henare said.

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Derone Raukawa and Mike Karena, two key cogs of their country’s national youth squad, will be making their debuts against the Filipinos, each ready to justify his inclusion in the lineup at the expense of veterans Finn Delaney and Ethan Rutsbach.

“The feel in this group is good, they have worked superbly over the short period of time we have been together,” Henare said. “Everyone knows the road we are on and the lofty goals we set for ourselves. But in true Tall Black style, we are working hard and have each other’s backs as we pursue our Olympic dream.”

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New Zealand last played in the Olympics in 2004 with a team coached by Baldwin.

TAGS: Basketball, Gilas Pilipinas, Manila Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Sports

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