By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
GILAS PILIPINAS will have its old nemesis South Korea as an opponent in the quarterfinals of the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup.
Taking place today at 11:30 p.m. at the Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex in Beirut, Lebanon, the last eight encounter between the familiar foes was forged after South Korea defeated Japan, 81-68, late Monday night in the first phase of the knockout rounds of the continental basketball tournament.
South Korea, which finished third in Group C behind New Zealand and host Lebanon because of a lower quotient, managed to set up a date with undefeated and Group B top team Philippines in the quarterfinals on the efforts of Ho Sekeun and Lee Seong Hyun, who finished the game against Japan with 16 points apiece.
This latest meeting between Gilas and South Korea will be the first since the latter beat the former, composed then of cadet players, in the 39th William Jones Cup, 83-72, in Chinese Taipei last month.
It will also be another chapter in the many basketball battles between the two nations which mostly ended with the Koreans crushing the hearts of the Filipinos, including that in the 2002 Asian Games where South Korea pulled the rug from under the Philippines with a dagger game-winning three-pointer in the semifinals.
But the Philippine team has soothed the pain of that and other losses with a victory over South Korea in 2013 in the semifinals of the FIBA Asia Championship held here in Manila.
Leading the charge for Gilas Pilipinas in the ongoing FIBA Asia Cup is guard Terrence Romeo, who is averaging 17.7 points (sixth in the tournament) and 3.7 assists in three games so far.
Christian Standhardinger has been good for 15.5 points and 6.5 rebounds while Matthew Wright has been chipping in 15 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists for the Philippines.
Gilas Pilipinas veterans Jayson William (6.7 ppg and 5 apg), Gabe Norwood (7 ppg, 5.7 rpg and 3 apg) and Japeth Aguilar (5 ppg, 5 rpg and 2.7 bpg) have also stepped up for the team and have given it a boost.
Three-time Philippine Basketball Association most valuable player June Mar Fajardo has yet to play for Gilas in the FIBA Asia Cup because of a calf injury but has been reported to have been practicing with the team now and is hoped to be ready in time for today’s game.
In the event the Philippines gets past South Korea, it will either face Iran or Lebanon in the semifinals.