Energen PH cagers underdogs today
The Energen Pilipinas youth team tries to conquer a regional powerhouse in South Korea when it shoots for a semifinal berth in the 22nd Fiba Asia U18 Championship today in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
Although the task looks daunting, national youth coach Olsen Racela thinks his young wards can bank on their strong run in the last two rounds.
“I haven’t seen a Korean youth team this big, ever. They’re almost as tall as China,” said Racela. “But if we can play [the way we did against Bahrain] for the whole game in the quarters, we’ll have a chance.”
The Philippines hopes to pull off a monumental upset against Korea, the runner-up in the tournament’s last edition, in the knockout quarterfinal match at 6 p.m. at Buyant-Ukhaa Arena.
Korea, along with defending champion China and second runner-up Chinese Taipei, represented Asia in the 2011 Fiba Worlds Under-19 in Latvia.
Skipper Jay Alejandro, a holdover from the under-16 squad, leads the Philippines’ campaign with a team-best 16 points per game.
UAAP juniors MVP Jerie Pingoy has also been a consistent performer for the Nationals with averages of 14 points and 2.3 assists.
The Philippines—which forged a huge comeback win versus Bahrain, 99-72, Wednesday—wound up tied with Iran and Chinese Taipei at 4-1 at the end of the second round in Group F action.
But the tiebreak didn’t go the Filipinos way as the Iranians secured the top spot, followed by the Taiwanese.
The Philippines settled for third, thus arranging a quarterfinal showdown against the towering Koreans, who have an average height of 6-foot-5.
Sangjae Kang, a 6-foot-7 forward, leads the Koreans with a team-best 17.5 points, while 6-foot-9 center Jonghyun Lee norms 17.4 points and 10.4 rebounds.
China, the only unbeaten squad in the tournament, battles Saudi Arabia at 4 p.m., while Chinese Taipei and Japan tangle in the quarterfinal kickoff at 2 p.m.
Iran and Lebanon wrap up the quarterfinal matches at 8 p.m.
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