Gilas Pilipinas leaves for Taipei Monday to begin 3rd window
Carrying the prayers of an entire nation, Gilas Pilipinas flies out for Chinese Taipei Monday morning to start its third window in the Fiba World Qualifying tournament where the Filipinos will definitely be met by a hostile crowd come Friday.
The Taiwanese will host the Filipinos in the 7 p.m. at Taipei Heping Gym, needing no less than a win to stay in range of advancing to the second round and trying to do it against a Gilas side they haven’t beaten since the Fiba Asia Championship in Manila in 2012.
Taipei is also a country enamored with basketball and in-love with its national team, and even though Overseas Filipino Workers are aplenty there, tickets for home games – especially against Filipinos – have reportedly been kept out from foreign buyers to assure full support for the hosts.
Team Philippines is already assured of advancing together with powerhouse Australia in Group B, and the fight basically has been narrowed down to Taipei and Japan for the third and last slot in their bracket.
And Taiwanese superstar Huang Tsung-Han has already declared victory for the home team, quite a hard statement considering that Gilas has had the Taiwanese’s number for the last five years running.
“This is my house,” the 23-year-old Huang told Fiba.com recently as tickets have been sold out. “In home games, the whole country will cheer for the players, and it will stimulate the players more. It will strengthen our desire to achieve victory.
“The tickets being sold out means we cannot lose,” Huang said.
Andray Blatche, Jayson Castro and reigning four-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo will again spearhead Gilas, which scored a 79-73 win over the Taiwanese last November at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Kiefer Ravena, banned by the Fiba for doping until August next year, and the injured Kevin Alas are two players from that November team who won’t be around this time.
As always, coach Chot Reyes has stayed away from interviews leading to the match, which is also crucial for Gilas since win-loss records will be carried over to the next round.
“We just want to ask the country to keep on praying and supporting our team,” Reyes said in a news segment over Channel 5 recently.
Taipei has also recalled some of its stars in the China Basketball Association for this game.
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