Following rout of Kazakhstan, Gilas Pilipinas focusing on clash with South Korea
Jakarta – Jordan Clarkson was an impressed spectator on the Gilas Pilipinas bench on Thursday, and just like that, with the Filipino cagers swarming Kazakhstan to submission on the way to a 96-59 win in the basketball competition, Team Philippines’ campaign in the 18th Asian Games got off to an impressive start in this traffic-heavy city.
The Filipinos started out hot and didn’t let up, dismantling the Kazakhstan offense with a pressing defense that allowed just one enemy to score in twin digits before the Cleveland mainstay in the NBA arrived in the third quarter to see Gilas put the finishing touches to a dominant win that is a certain hit back home.
More than assuring itself of safe passage into the KO stages with the win, Team Philippines can afford to lose to mighty China on Tuesday and brace for what coach Yeng Guiao said would practically “be our Asian Games tournament” against South Korea in the quarterfinals.
The only thing that could prevent the Filipinos from advancing is that if China unexpectedly loses to Kazakhstan in their group play match and the Kazakhs prevail in the tiebreaker over the Philippines.
“The Lord blessed us with a very nice win,” Guiao said after the demolition job at GBK Basketball Hall, which he said repaid the faith of the people back home wanting to see something positive from the National Five after that ugly brawl with Australia last July 2 in the Fiba World Qualifying window in Bulacan.
“This is the answer to the prayers of the millions of Filipino people,” he went on.
Guiao, though, was quick to cut down the celebration and will have his wards plunge back to work Friday to not only prepare for what he said was a “tall order” against China but to also get Clarkson in the scheme of things and be in full force in the expected quarterfinal clash with Korea.
“That will be our tournament right there,” Guiao told the Inquirer, referring to the Korea match. “If we win that game, we will be aiming to win a medal from there. It’s a game we need to win, let’s put it that way.”
“Otherwise, we will be just trying to improve on our seventh place finish the last time out,” he said. “And we don’t want that as much as possible. We’re here for a medal at the very least.”
Guiao took on this job on short notice, assembling the team less than two weeks ago with the help of Rain or Shine and the other PBA teams. He admitted knowing little of the enemy on Thursday and deflected all credit to his coaching staff for doing a magnificent job scouting Kazakhstan.
“The coaching staff did an excellent job, actually,” he said. “They scouted (Kazakhstan) and prepared our defensive scheme. We were able to disrupt their offense and we were able to challenge their shots. Our anticipation was good and that’s because of the scouting.”
Stanley Pringle, one of the finest point guards in the PBA, scored 18 points and seasoned center Christian Standhardinger had 15. James Yap, whose last National Team duty was also under Guiao, had 12 and Paul Lee 10.
Pringle played his first international 5-on-5 game and was a sight to behold. He missed just three of nine shots and quickly established himself as one of the best players in the tournament.
“I just come out to play and be the best player I can be for the team,” Pringle said. “I’m not after anything (individually). We played a hard team game, just like what coach Yeng wants us to do.”
Anton Bykov had 13 points and was the only player in double figures for Kazakhstan, which trailed by as large as 37 points after being held to just nine in the opening period.
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