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28th FIBA Asia Championships

28th FIBA Asia Championships: Gilas Lost is not the End but Opportunity to Shine

Latest 2015 28th FIBA Asia Championships: Gilas Philippines Lost is not the end but opportunity to shine, CHANGSHA – SBP executive director Sonny Barrios said yesterday the Philippine team’s 75-73 loss to Palestine in the preliminaries of the 28th FIBA Asia Championships here was “colossal” but it has opened an opportunity for the players to shine in coming back with a vengeance for the games ahead.

I spoke with the guys,” said Barrios. “My advice was to put it behind them, that we should move on. Of course, we’re all sad that we lost but it’s not the end of the world. In fact, it’s an opportunity for them to shine. I know the players met among themselves to talk about it. They wanted to do some direction-setting.”

Barrios said he sympathized with Hong Kong because Gilas vented its ire on the squad the day after the Palestine setback. “They were out to clobber Hong Kong,” he said. “Nothing personal. I think they wanted to prove a point and it so happened that Hong Kong was the next game.”

The Philippines was merciless in crushing Hong Kong, 101-50 with Andray Blatche, Gabe Norwood, Dondon Hontiveros, Jayson Castro and Asi Taulava sitting out the fourth period last Thursday. It was all guns blazing from the onset as Gilas raced to a 17-2 lead then opened an 83-38 lead to start the last quarter. Hong Kong had no chance as the Philippines cruised to a huge 51-point victory. Castro led the charge with 21 points and Blatche delivered 17 points and eight rebounds. Gilas plastered Hong Kong with more rebounds, 62-38, more assists, 16-10, more triples, 14-5, more free throws, 17-5, more turnover points, 12-4, more second chance points, 13-2 and more bench points, 39-17. It was total domination.

Against Palestine, the Philippines blew a 16-point edge in the first half to falter in the late going. Palestine outscored Gilas, 20-14, in the fourth quarter to steal the game. Gilas had no answer for three Palestinian players who hit all the 20 points – Jamal Abu Shamala fired 9 of his 26, Sani Sakanini 9 of his 22 and Imad Qahwash 2 of his 17 in the playoff quarter. Palestine zoned the Philippines the entire second half and Gilas couldn’t find the antidote to crack it.

Coach Tab Baldwin admitted Gilas lacks “automatic shooters” to break the zone and said he’s sure other teams will use that defense to frustrate the Philippines in the coming games. Meralco coach Norman Black, who flew in Wednesday night to join Baldwin’s staff for the rest of the tournament, said the lack of energy was evident in the loss.

It’s something Tab is addressing,” said Black. “We’re working to make adjustments. Obviously, there are many ways to break the zone and outside shooting is just one of those ways. I thought we didn’t do a good job of rebounding the ball and it hurt us. We’ve got to get back our confidence and be aggressive on offense. It’s not helping us that we’re playing games in the morning which we’re unfamiliar with. It’s taking some time to adjust but we’re getting there.”

Barrios said Baldwin has discussed issues with the players and the team is determined to bounce back. “Everyone’s adjusting to the new system,” he said. “Terrence Romeo, for instance, is doing more facilitating now than going one-on-one to the basket. It’s a change in style and it’s a change for the better. From where we stand now, we need to win as many more games as possible so we finish high at the end of the second round and we play a lower ranked opponent in the knockout quarterfinals.”

SBP deputy executive director for international affairs and Gilas team manager Butch Antonio said the mood has changed dramatically since the loss. “We’re all upbeat,” he said. “We know now, it’s an uphill climb. But the guys are ready and determined. We’re all in this together.”

Barrios said he challenged the players to step up for themselves. “I told them to do it not just for their family, flag and country, MVP (SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan) or whoever else but to do it especially for themselves,” he said. “We’re in the frying pan and we don’t want to jump into the fire.”

Today is a rest day from hostilities. Tomorrow, the second round begins with the top three finishers of Group A playing the top three finishers of Group B. The top four placers then advance to the knockout quarterfinals in crossover pairings with the top four placers from the combined Groups C and D. The No. 1 finisher from Groups A and B will play the No. 4 finisher from Groups C and D and the No. 2 finisher will face the No. 3. The top three finishers in Group A are Iran, Japan and India. The top three finishers in Group B are Palestine, the Philippines and Hong Kong.

In the second round, the Philippines will play Japan at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, Iran at 2:30 p.m. on Monday and India at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday. There will be another rest day on Wednesday then the knockout quarterfinals will be played on Thursday. The semifinals will be held on Friday and the third place playoff and final next Saturday.

Only the FIBA Asia champion is guaranteed a ticket to the 2016 Rio Olympics as the Asian representative. The second, third and fourth placers will be invited to play in three separate Olympic qualifying competitions in July. Each Olympic qualifying tournament will consist of six teams and only the three winners will claim wildcard tickets to Rio.