Gilas Pilipinas ready to take shot at Fiba Asia Cup heavyweight New Zealand
Gilas Pilipinas needed a moment to exhale, after a brutal opening loss put its plans for the 2022 Fiba (International Basketball Federation) Asia Cup in serious trouble.
Efficient shooting from Will Navarro and Thirdy Ravena plus contributions from up and down the roster allowed the team to do just that.
“[This is] very important,” national coach Chot Reyes said shortly after blowing out India, 101-59, on Friday at Istora Senayan in Jakarta, Indonesia. “No. 1, this gets us to the next phase, to get a chance to move forward. No. 2, this prepares us for New Zealand.”
The next phase would be the knockout matches that second- and third-ranked teams in each group will play to shoot for quarterfinal berths. That has been one of the stated goals of Reyes heading into the tournament—get into the Last 8 and try to improve on the seventh place finish from the last time the event was held.
“We wanted to come into this ball game and make sure we come up with better performance than our last game. That’s No. 1, to be able to play at our level, at a certain level,” said Reyes.
Navarro certainly turned his game up a notch, coming off the bench and knocking down 18 points on six-of-seven shooting. He also hit two triples. Ravena added 17 points on seven-of-eight shooting. He also had five rebounds and two steals as he showed no ill-effects of the injury he suffered after falling face first on the floor in a loss to Lebanon on Wednesday.
Gilas roused itself from a slow start where it was held to a deadlock at 13. Ravena hit a jumper that capped a 7-0 run for a 21-13 lead to end the quarter.
“I must admit we started the game pretty rough. But the players were able to recover and I thought we were able to put a lot of pressure on the other team,” Reyes said.
The Philippines will wrap up its Group D stint against New Zealand on Sunday at 9 p.m. (Manila time).
An upset against New Zealand, a team that has crushed the Philippines in previous matchups, could give Gilas a shot at an outright quarterfinal berth. It’s a long shot, but something the Philippines is eager to take.
“New Zealand is going to be very tough, but like I told the players, this is what we live for,” Reyes said.
“It’s all for moments like this. When you’re prepared to play a game nobody expects you to win, all we can do is go out there, give our best, give ourselves a chance, give ourselves a shot. And I always tell my players that in life, that’s all we ask for, right? That we get a shot … And as long as we have that shot, we’ll take it. We’d rather take that shot and miss than not take it at all. So right there, bashers and all, haters and all, we’d rather take the shot and miss than not take it.”
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