Roller-coaster: Looking back at Gilas' ride to the KO stages
MANILA, Philippines -- Five teams down. Three left to finish off as Gilas Pilipinas attempts to rewrite history books.
But before we talk about progressing to the finals and to the FIBA World Cup next year in Spain, let us take a look back at how we secured our ticket to the knockout stages.
In their first FIBA Asia Championship assignment, Gilas Pilipinas had to shake off heebie-jeebies as minnows Saudi Arabia fought hard and tried their best to score an opening day upset.
The Philippines may have taken a 78-66 win in the end but an evidently unsatisfied Chot Reyes described the win as “ugly” during the post game press conference.
Two years ago in Wuhan, with the Philippines looking bright in the 26th FIBA Asia Championship, Jordan put Gilas’ 2011 campaign to a screeching halt as they escaped the Filipinos in the semifinals, 75-61. It was the same Jordanian squad that stunned Iran in the quarterfinals and lost by a point to China for the title.
Smitten by the thought of sweet revenge right in front of their homecrowd this time, Gilas Pilipinas ran away with a 77-71 come-from-behind win against the depleted Jordan side as Jeff Chan solidified his place as one of the most lethal shooters early in the tournament.
The Philippines had to dig themselves out of an 11-point second quarter deficit as they started the night in a lackluster fashion but thanks to Chan and Jayson Castro – who poured in 17 and 16 respectively – the home crowd went more than satisfied.
Eyeing a Group A sweep at the end of the first round, Reyes boys faced the other undefeated team in the group: Chinese Taipei.
It was a match with many subplots but both teams were all business as they took on each other on the hard court. It was the Taiwanese who got the upper hand first as their shooters waxed hot early in the game but Gilas Pilipinas, fueled by the almost 20,000-strong crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena, bounced back midway in the game to return to the thick of things once more.
Gilas Pilipinas, behind the heroics of Fonacier, looked poised to sweep the preliminaries to avoid a date with China in the quarterfinals but the Filipinos succumbed to a horrific late-game meltdown as Chinese Taipei won it by 5, 84-79.
It would have been Fonacier’s best game in a Philippines jersey as he finished the game with 21 markers but it was not enough as 4 Taiwanese players scored above 15.
Gary David, who was expected to pile up the points for Gilas in this tournament, extended his woeful slump as he went scoreless against Taiwan highlighted by crucial errors and sorry misses.
Japan was unfortunate to be at the receiving end of a bounce-back effort by the Gilas squad as the Philippines pulled off their best performance so far in the 11-day competition, dominating Japan from start to finish and eking out a 90-71 win over the shell-shocked Japanese side.
Marcus Douthit asserted himself in throughout the game as he finished with 19 points on top of 10 boards as Chan continued to put on a show from downtown once more and finished the game with 16.
But it was Japeth Aguilar who stole the show as he practically made a highlight reel out of the game. David also had a breakout game of sorts as he, egged on by the packed arena, finally found his shooting touch albeit a little too late in the game.
The Philippines then followed up their win against Japan with an 80-70 beating of Qatar. Gilas Pilipinas could have won this game with a much bigger margin as they uncorked a 21-2 run in the second canto.
But the home team once again faltered in the end-game as the then unbeaten Qatar threatened to upset the Philippines and came to within 7, 67-74 inside the last minute of the match.
Gilas Pilipinas, however, took hold of themselves to survive the Qataris but the win came with a big price as Douthit bruised his calf at a time in the tournament when his team needed him most.
Right before the opening tip between the Philippines and Hong Kong, Qatar shocked Chinese Taipei to present the top spot in Group E to the hosts in a gift wrap. The Philippines only had to dispatch a feeble Hong Kong side to top their group and earn the right to face Kazakhstan in the next round but it was easier said than done as the underdogs gave their opposition a hard time all-night.
Good thing for Gilas, they played their worst game against one of the worst teams as they beat the East Asians, 67-55.
It was an unspectacular game for the Philippine 5 as they struggled in the first 3 quarters and trailed Hong Kong for most of the game. Reyes had to gamble on Douthit's injury as he needed the big man’s 13 points and 8 rebounds with almost all of his wards having their off night.
In the end, the Philippines took a 4-1 record after Round 2, same slate with Chinese Taipei and Qatar, but they occupied the #1 spot through quotients to avoid tougher match-ups come the last 8.
What’s next for Gilas?
The Philippines has to win at least two more games to secure a ticket to the FIBA World Cup next year in Spain.
Tonight, they face an injury-laden Kazakhstan squad in the quarterfinals but it will be no walk in the park for Gilas as their opponents have the ability to turn the tables over in the Asian stage.
A win over the Kazakhs will bring them to the semifinals against the winner of the Qatar-Korea tiff and another win tomorrow will gain them the finals berth, enough for them to seal one of the 3 FIBA World Cup tickets up for grabs in this tournament.
Iran, Jordan, Chinese Taipei and China feature on the other side of the playoffs tree. - Rappler.com