BOCAUE,Bulacan—With all hands on deck this time and momentum on its side, Gilas Pilipinas tries to pull off what seemed unthinkable ever since the draw in the Fiba World Cup 2019 Qualifiers was finalized last year.
Coming off an ego-inflating win over a bitter rival in the Asian region just three nights ago, Gilas will set out against world power Australia Monday evening at the cavernous Philippine Arena here.
They will try to beat the world No. 10 Aussies for the first time in the modern age in a match that will determine top Group B ranking.
The Philippines’ nipped Australia, 101-100, in the 1974 world championships held in Puerto Rico. Among the players of that team were pro legends Bogs Adornado, Ramon Fernandez and Robert Jaworski.
Jayson Castro and Terrence Romeo, spitfirish guards who weren’t around when the Filipinos were manhandled 84-68 by the Boomers last February, will be suiting up in the 7:30 p.m. contest as Gilas tries to pin a second straight defeat on the pre-tournament favorites.
Coach Chot Reyes made adjustments in his roster and will play Carl Bryan Cruz and Baser Amer against the Aussies, the two having sat out Friday night’s 93-71 mangling of the Taiwanese in Chinese Taipei.
Hands-down the team-to-beat in this tournament, Australia took a 79-78 loss at the hands of Japan in Chiba on Friday after the Japanese unveiled two new players in naturalized center Nick Fazekas and half-Japanese Rui Hachimura.
The loss to the Japanese is what makes Philippine Team coach Chot Reyes a bit wary of the Aussies.
“For sure, they (Aussies) will come out like wounded tigers (for our game),” Reyes said after the victory over the Taiwanese.
June Mar Fajardo will be coming off what could possibly be his best game in a Gilas uniform and Andray Blatche redeemed himself from a mediocre outing in the previous win over Chinese Taipei as the duo will definitely be called upon to try and deny the big Aussies from dominating the inside.
Reyes also wants premium on making outside shots to enable the Gilas big men to operate inside. That’s where Castro, Romeo and Matthew Wright come as the Filipinos’ best outside guns.
In the loss to Australia last Feb. 22, the Philippines made just 5 of 19 three-point shots. In the Friday win against the Taiwanese, the Filipinos were a little better at 8-for-21.
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