A gauntlet has been laid down for Gilas Pilipinas to run through, with its fate in the 19th Asian Games hinged on one crucial qualification game — against Qatar on Monday, October 2.
At stake is a spot in the quarterfinals of the men’s basketball competition where powerhouse Iran awaits. A victory in the round of 8 would then give Gilas a shot at a podium finish against host China.
Revenge will be in the air, if the Philippines and China do meet in the semifinals, with the hometown crowd expected to turn up in huge numbers to demand payback for Gilas’ 96-75 rout of the Chinese team — behind Jordan Clarkson’s 34-point blast — in the FIBA Basketball World Cup classification at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on September 4.
The do-or-die with the Qataris is at 4. p.m. at the Zhegiang University Zijingang Gymnasium, where the Philippines turned back Thailand and Tyler Lamb, 87-72, last Thursday, September 28.
Qatar knocked out Indonesia from quarterfinal contention in the Group Phase, 74-67, on Saturday, September 30, hours before Gilas absorbed an 87-62 setback to Jordan and NBA journeyman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center.
The Nationals had the Jordanians in the ropes for a brief moment late in the third quarter, 52-all, but let them slip away with a 13-0 run going to the fourth, letting loose as well an outright quarterfinal berth where Gilas would have sidestepped Iran.
But these are the cards dealt the Philippine team now, and the deck it has to play with.
Based on Qatar’s preliminary round game against Indonesia, Gilas will need to look out for at least three licensed Qatari shooters — Abdullah Mousa, Babakar Dieng and Khaled Abdelbaset — who launched 19 of their team’s 25 three-point attempts.
The squad from the Gulf Region also has ferocious rebounders in Nedim Muslic, El Hadji Ndoye and Faris Advic, with Qatar’s combined 54 rebounds crushing Indonesia’s 32 total under the boards.
With their height and built, the Qataris appear to be more comfortable working inside the perimeter, taking 43 of their 68 field goal tries from within the arc.
Indonesia, in contrast, took 30 of its 57 shots from beyond the 3-point line, hitting 12. Qatar was 6 of 25 from afar.
Defensively, the Nationals may not have to worry as much in the containment of a Hollis-Jefferson (25 pts, 9 rebs), a Fadi Ibrahim (17 pts, 3 of 7 threes) or a Sami Bzai (12 pts, 3 of 6 3s), all of whom delivered firepower for Jordan.
But they have to coax out of self-imposed cells Calvin Oftana, who was 0 of 7 from the field and scoreless in 28:48 minutes, CJ Perez (2 of 9 in 19:57), Japeth Aguilar (4 of 10 in 28:03) and Ange Kouame (2 of 6 in 10:27).
Even Justin Brownlee, who played without a relief save for less than two minutes, was anything but a hot hand, scoring 24 points on 8 of 22 shooting, including 2 of 10 from long distance.
He and Scottie Thompson were the only Gilas players in double figures as the Nationals shot just 24 of 72 (33 percent), clanging all but 4 of 24 3-point attempts.
Quarterfinalist Jordan, meanwhile, will be gunning for a semifinal berth on Tuesday, October 3, against the winner of Monday’s qualification game between Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong.
China, Japan, Iran and Jordan have all booked slots in the quarterfinals.