I just finished watching the quarterfinal match-up between Gilas Pilipinas and Lebanon. Before the game, I was really excited and tensed at the same time since the Gilas hasn’t played Lebanon in probably about 3 years. Lebanon wasn’t able to participate in the last edition of the Fiba Asia when Fiba suspended them due to internal conflicts within their governing basketball body. You can’t really say that Lebanon has been playing solidly throughout the tournament but they have shown flashes of the old Lebanese team during El Khatib’s time. They got big wins against Chinese Taipei and Jordan, with the latter win giving them the ticket to the quarterfinals.
It was pretty close all throughout the game. Just when you think Gilas was going to pull away, Lebanon kept coming back. Lebanon got as close as 4 points at least a couple of times in the last few minutes but with the combined scoring prowess of Castro and Blatche, Gilas was able to finish strong, winning the game, 82-70.
I really like the combined efforts of the boys especially on the defensive end. You can really see that they are very committed to playing defense. You have to admire the hustle efforts of Abueva, Norwood, Ganuelas and Pingris. Those guys are on the team for that very purpose.
Tomorrow we play against a team we defeated in the second round- Japan. I have no doubt in my mind that Gilas can and will once again get the job done and enter the final for the second time in a row.
Where are the expected players?
Much have been said about those players who were expected to comprise the team. As a fan, I felt quite disappointed considering how well we performed in the World Cup last year. I thought that this edition of the Fiba Asia is our best chance to finally get not just the elusive gold, but also the ticket to the Rio Olympics next year. That is, if we could have the best lineup.
I look at the 16-man pool and I’m like, man, if only this player were here, we could be a lot more stronger. I followed their games when they went to Estonia. You could see that the cohesion wasn’t perfect yet. Also, Blatche was obviously out of shape. But to their credit, though they lost all their 3 games there, it was clear that they improved in each game they played.
That improvement was more evident in the Jones Cup. I really like their games against the Russian Club Team and New Zealand. Against Russia, they were really tested physically and mentally. The Russians were tough, and they were fighters. But Gilas wouldn’t be denied as they won in double digits. The game against New Zealand was a thriller. Down by double digits in the 4th quarter, the Gilas boys came roaring back to force the game into overtime. Hontiveros, who’s been around like forever, exploded for 11 points in OT to get us the victory. He actually scored all of Gilas’ points in OT. We lost our games against Iran and Korea but I thought that with Blatche in the lineup, it would different.
Fiba Asia time!
I honestly believed that we would just breeze through the first round. I wasn’t able to watch the first game live, but I was shell shocked when I saw the news- Palestine beat Gilas, 75-73. I seriously couldn’t believe it. A first timer in the competition, beating Gilas?
But that loss became a spark for the team to take their game to the next level. They would win the next two games in the first round against Hong Kong and Kuwait by an average margin of 48.5 points.
Gilas swept all three games in the second round. That included the all important game against defensing champion Iran. Boy, were they so fired up or what. Their performance against Iran especially in the second half was a sight to behold. I thought that if they would play with that level of intensity on a consistent basis, no team in Asia would beat them. Their average margin in this round was 18.3 points.
Final Four again
Gilas has now reached the final four of the Fiba Asia for the third time in a row. In 2011, we finished fourth behind China, Jordan and Korea. In 2013, we reached the final but lost to Iran. And now in this 2015 edition, we are now once again in the semifinals.
I’m quite confident that we will win against Japan tomorrow. China and Iran will battle it out on the other side of the bracket. That should be a very interesting game.
I’m kind of hoping that China would win. I’d like to see Gilas beating China in the final, right in their home court. That would be totally a blast.
Hats off to the boys
Those guys have done nothing so far but proving critics wrong. The way each player is contributing to the team, I can only conclude that this is THE best team that we have. Those guys are on the battlefield, making huge sacrifices for the country, we can only be proud of the them. I believe in this team. I believe in each player’s capacity to make a great contribution in the semis and (I claim it now) in the final. Lastly, I also believe in Tab Baldwin’s genius mind. They can do this. Two more wins to Rio.
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