Quicker bigs doomed PH
Team Philippines’ age-old weakness came to haunt the Filipinos in their Fiba World Cup qualifying game against Kazakhstan on Friday night, and because of a 92-88 loss in their own turf where the theme of the tournament is to protect one’s house, the path to the global meet next year has just gotten bumpier.
Alexandr Zhigulin, a 6-foot-10 center with the hands of a shooting guard, and the other big men of Kazakhstan baffled their Filipino counterparts all night, and, coupled with deadly shooting from three-point range, the Kazakhs posted one of the bigger upsets in Group F play that pushed the Filipinos hard to the wall.
Gilas is now faced with three must-win games to steady its shaky bid for a berth in the World Cup set in China next year, and that task starts on Monday, also at Mall of Asia Arena, when the Filipinos host Iran at 7:30 p.m.
The next two games will be against the Qataris in Qatar and versus the Kazakhs, also on the road, happening Feb. 21 and 24, respectively, next year.
Losing to the Kazakhs dropped the Filipinos into a tie with Japan at 5-4 for third spot in their group.
But the Japanese have been a rejuvenated lot owing to the presence of Rui Hachimura and naturalized center Nick Fazekas—both of whom weren’t there when Gilas beat the Japanese twice earlier.
Against Iran, coach Yeng Guiao will make the adjustments in an effort to address the lack of mobility of the Gilas frontcourt by tapping Christian Standhardinger as his naturalized player in lieu of Stanley Pringle.
Iran is expected to miss big man Hamed Haddadi due to an injury, a welcome development for the win-hungry Filipinos.
“We were mismatched in terms of quickness, especially on our big men,” Guiao had said Friday night after the defeat, where the 7-foot Greg Slaughter played less than five minutes and wound up scoreless with just a rebound and a turnover.
A loss to the Iranians would knock the Filipinos out of a third place tie with the Japanese, which would be critical since only the top three teams from each group—and then the best fourth-placed team from both brackets—will advance to the World Cup.