MANILA, Philippines – Kazakhstan head coach Renatas Kurilionokas is a man who keeps his word.
After his team got thrashed by the Philippines by 37 points in the 2018 Asian Games, Kurilionokas promised a different outcome in the World Cup qualifiers.
“I’m sure that it will be a different game because if you don’t know, we have problems with the flights,” Kurilionokas said on the eve of the World Cup qualifying game, recalling that his wards had to deal with jet lag in the Asiad.
“We just, for example, in the Asian Games, we came just 8 pm and we played like 10 in the morning. This is the very big difference. We came out like yesterday. Different game, I think it will be different game for sure.”
Backing up their coach’s word, the Kazakhs stunned Gilas Pilipinas and the thousand of Filipino spectators at the Mall of Asia Arena as they eked out a 92-88 triumph on Friday, November 30.
Not only did Kazakhstan end a nine-month losing streak in the World Cup qualifiers, it also relegated the Philippines to a 5-4 card and a share of 3rd place in Group F with Japan.
“You see. You see. Different flights, different conditions, we’re not tired, we have time to prepare, we are winners. It’s very easy, yes,” a confident Kurilionokas told Filipinos reporters.
With ample time to prepare and rest, the Kazakhs fought off every single run the Filipinos could have used to pull away by burying timely triples – 12 to be exact – before gutting it out in the end with solid trips to the foul line.
Alexandr Zhigulin, who was limited to just 7 points in the Philippines’ 96-59 demolition of Kazakhstan in the Asiad in August, caught fire to finish with 30 points spiked by 6 treys.
“This is, you said before this is luck. This is not luck. You are a shooter, you are a great shooter,” Kurilionokas told Zhigulin in the post-game presser.
The Philippines, though, will need its foe’s help when Kazakhstan faces Japan to cap off the fifth window of the World Cup qualifiers.
A loss for the Japanese will propel the Filipinos back to solo 3rd in Group F, but the Philippines also needs to do its part by winning over Iran on Monday, December 3. Only the top 3 teams from Groups E and F are assured of spots in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. – Rappler.com
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