Must-win start vs Saudis for RP Asiad cagers | Inquirer Sports

Must-win start vs Saudis for RP Asiad cagers

09:17 AM October 09, 2010

MANILA—The Smart Gilas Pilipinas national team faces a must-win assignment in its opening match against Saudi Arabia in the Asian Games under a new knockout format in basketball’s preliminary round. The format seeds the top eight basketball teams of the previous Asian Games into two brackets in the second round.
Defending champion Iran, Qatar, Chinese Taipei and Japan are in Group F with Doha Asiad runner-up China, South Korea, Jordan and Uzbekistan in Group E. The RP five, a competitive mix of former collegiate stars and overseas-based players with Filipino roots, needs to beat Saudi Arabia to join Group F, together with the winner of the Afghanistan-India knockout match. The Philippines is unseeded in the Asiad because a Fiba suspension barred the country from joining the Doha Games. In the other knockout matches, Hong Kong meets North Korea and Turkmenistan takes on Mongolia for the two remaining slots in Group E. The teams in the two second-round groups will play a single-round elimination phase with the top four advancing to the crossover quarterfinals. The winners will engage in a knockout semifinals, with the two surviving teams battling for the crown. “It’s going to be tough,” said Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman. “We’ve met all the teams in Group F and we will come in prepared against them. “But first, we have to get past Saudi Arabia,” added the Serbian mentor, who was tapped by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to steer the national team to the continental games and the 2011 Fiba Asia Championship, which offers a lone slot to the 2012 London Olympics. Smart Gilas hasn’t faced the Saudi national squad during its two-year developmental program, although the RP five defeated a Saudi Arabian club team in the Fiba Asia Champions Cup held in Doha four months ago. Al Hilal, Saudi Arabia’s entry in the Champions Cup, had a core of national team players. Reinforced by three PBA players—Sol Mercado, Asi Taulava and Kelly Williams —Smart Gilas boasts a local crew of former college stars led by team captain Chris Tiu, co-captain Mark Barroca, JV Casio, Mac Baracael, Greg Slaughter and Dylan Ababou. Jason Ballesteros, Aldrech Ramos, Marcio Lassiter and Chris Lutz complete the lineup.

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TAGS: Asian Games, Basketball, Gilas Pilipinas

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