Gilas Pilipinas shifts focus with must-win matchup with India

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GILAS Pilipinas battles India on Friday for a shot at quarterfinal slot. — FIBA

LIKE Thirdy Ravena who got cut and bruised off a nasty fall in the 95-80 loss to Lebanon, Gilas Pilipinas is ready to pick itself up and continue the fight in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia Cup.

The Nationals shift their focus to Friday’s must-win Group D matchup with fellow opening-day loser India at the Istora Senayan, which could well give them a shot at a targeted quarterfinal ticket.

Per tournament rules, the group winner earns an outright Last-8 ticket while the second and third-ranked teams go into the qualification phase to dispute a quarters seat versus Group C’s No. 3 and No. 2, respectively.

A win virtually secures the Philippines’ positioning for at least No. 3 ahead of its last group game against old tormentor New Zealand on Sunday.

New Zealand, which opened with a 100-47 rout of India, and Lebanon are tipped to battle for Group D supremacy, leaving the third spot a contest between Gilas and the Indians.

“It was a tough game for us against Lebanon but most importantly, we have another chance to bounce back and now, the ‘championship game’ is our next game against India,” said Philippine skipper Kiefer Ravena.

The Filipinos go into the 3 p.m. game (4 p.m. Manila time) with the psychological edge, having previously swept the Indians in their two matches in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, 104-69 and 79-63. Still, that’s no reason for Gilas to lower its guards.

“We played India before but I think it’s a different team they sent here in the FIBA Asia Cup, so we have to be physically and mentally prepared going to the game,” said Mr. Ravena.

Gilas coach Chot Reyes picked up some positives from the tough opening game on Wednesday night, where his charges unleashed a mighty 16-4 blast to cut what was once a 21-point lead by the Cedars to a manageable nine in the fourth before the Cedars shut the door for good.

“I thought we made a great run. We never quit even when we were down by 20,” said Mr. Reyes.

The no-quit spirit was epitomized by Thirdy, who slammed his head on the floor on a bad landing off a block attempt with 1:15 left in the second period. After some anxious moments, the younger Mr. Ravena was wheeled out of the court but by the half time warm-ups, he was already doing shoot-around and eventually reported back in.

Overall, Mr. Reyes said the Lebanon gig presented valuable lessons for his youthful crew.

“For us, it’s a great learning experience. We have a very young team here and for them to be able to experience a very high level competition, I think it’s the most important thing,” he said. — Olmin Leyba