By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE Philippines and Chinese Taipei get their campaigns going today in the third window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers as they collide against each other at the scheduled 7 p.m. match at the Taipei Heping Basketball Gymnasium.
The second of two encounters in Group B of the Qualifiers between the squads, both are angling to get the victory in their rematch to give their thrusts a boost as they try to make their way to the next round of the competition.
Gilas Pilipinas, which took the first encounter over Chinese Taipei, 90-83, back in November in the first window, is already assured of a spot in the second round of the tournament with a 3-1 record but is determined nonetheless to keep rolling since win-loss records are carried over to the next phase.
Bannering the Philippines’ campaign in Taiwan is a 15-man pool handled by national team coach Chot Reyes.
The players are Philippine Basketball Association stalwarts Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo, Baser Amer, Jio Jalalon, Matthew Wright, RR Pogoy, Calvin Abueva, Troy Rosario, June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Allein Maliksi, Gabe Norwood and Carl Bryan Cruz.
Also included in the pool are naturalized player Andray Blatche and Gilas Cadet member Troy Rike.
Now playing in enemy territory, Gilas is expecting an all the more determined Chinese Taipei team, which is why it has been preparing hard for the challenge.
“We are expecting a determined Taipei team [on Friday]. Good thing the players are showing that they are attuned with the task at hand and really working hard in practice,” said Mr. Reyes in the lead-up to their game against Chinese Taipei.
For Mr. Pogoy, the difficulty they had against Chinese Taipei in the first game should serve as a reminder to them to be on top of their game for the rematch.
“We had a hard time beating them (Taiwanese) in Manila, and this time it will be harder because they have home court. We just have to be ready and have to be more aware of the mistakes we made when we last played them,” said Mr. Pogoy, who finished with 11 points last time around.
In the first game, the Philippines struggled to find form in the early goings but managed to step up down the stretch to hack out the win.
Jayson Castro led the way with 20 points followed by June Mar Fajardo with 17 points.
Over at the Chinese Taipei camp, the team, sporting a 1-3 card, looks to pad its push to the next round by winning its last two games, including against the Philippines.
A win by Chinese Taipei over Gilas today almost assures it of advancing and puts a lot of pressure on Japan (0-4) to win its game against Group B-leading Australia (4-0).
If the host team loses to Gilas though, it may find itself in a still murky situation with Japan for the third spot and rendering their last game in the window on July 2 as a virtual do-or-die.
But Chinese Taipei has made it known that it is out to win against the Philippines in front of its hometown fans.
“Playing at home has always been very important. In home games, the whole country will cheer for the players, and it will stimulate the players more. It will strengthen our desire to achieve victory,” said Chinese Taipei player Huang Tsung-Han, who was not part of the team which met the Philippines the first time around but was a valuable cog in Chinese Taipei’s lone win so far in the tournament against Japan, 90-89, in February, where he scored 11 points.
“This time, we also have some stronger players joining us. As long as we control our fouls, I believe that we will win this time!” he added.
For the third window of the Qualifiers, Chinese Taipei will be backstopped by players from the Chinese Basketball Association like former Super Basketball League most valuable players Chou Yi-Hsiang and Liu Cheng, upcoming stars Chen Ying-Chun and Hu Long-Mao and veterans Tseng Wen-Ting and Yang Ching-Min.
The Gilas Pilipinas-Chinese Taipei game will be shown live on ESPN5 with livestream on ESPN5.com.