PH's momentum vs Iraq hoped

Marianne L. Saberon-Abalayan

VENGEANCE was sweet for Gilas Pilipinas after beating perennial tormentor China, 96-87, in the 2017 Fiba Asia Cup at the Beirut Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex in Lebanon on Wednesday, August 9, and everybody hopes that they can ride on their momentum for a second straight win against Iraq.

Philippine Sports Commission Chairman William "Butch" Ramirez, in a text interview with SunStar Davao, cited Gilas for their preparations and focus despite the absence of Andray Blatche and losing prized center June Mar Fajardo to injury.

"The Philippines is capable of winning against Iraq. What Gilas did to China was courage and teamwork and effective coaching. I'm happy for Gilas," Ramirez said.

San Miguel Beermen assistant coach Dayong Mendoza, for his part, said that winning the first game is always nice as it can be used as a springboard to play better in the next few games.

Mendoza added, "Head coach Chot Reyes is a proven winner and I am sure he will be ready with a solid game plan for Iraq. The numerous international coaching experience in the last few years for coach Chot gives him that distinct advantage in his approach on how to strategize for our national team in every game and situation."

Terrence Romeo led the charge for Gilas, drilling in 26 points including five triples with four assists while Christian Karl Standhardinger and Jayson Castro added 15 and 13 baskets, respectively. The latter also issued seven assists as Roger Pogoy and Standhardinger each accounted for six boards.

"Gilas showed a lot of heart as usual and remained poise down the stretch. A statement game for them. I think they're capable of beating Iraq," Ateneo de Davao University coach Pochollo Elegino said.

Philippine Sports Institute (PSI) Mindanao coordinator Marlon Malbog, meanwhile, praised Gilas for starting and ending the game against china in a great way. "They showed more poise and composure, they never backed down. Hats off to Romeo offensively especially at the crucial moments of the game and to (Japeth) Aguilar defensively, overall the team played aggressive, they are on attack mode, just limit useless turnovers when they play Iraq."

PSI Davao City coordinator Mark Paul Samante also agreed with Malbog's statement, saying that "small ball did wonders for Gilas."

"Hope they sustain the momentum of the win last night for Gilas to win against Iraq, more three points should fall as well as free throws," Samante said.

Rizal Memorial Colleges sports director Albert Ryan Lim, for his part, said Gilas should continue their perimeter shooting touch and improve their defense.

It can be recalled that Philippines only won three of nine encounters with China in the past - Fiba Asia Challenge 2014 (80-79), Fiba Asia Championship 2007 group phase (74-79) and Fiba Asia Championships 2007 classification (78-76).

But Gilas lost championship match in the Fiba Asia Challenge 2016, Fiba Asia Championship 2015, Asian Games, Fiba Asia Challenge 2013, Fiba Asia Championship 2011 and in Asian Games 2002.