Tonight, the Philippines’ over-achieving Gilas Team goes to war against the bigger, badder behemoths of China. As expected, the Philippines and China stopped their respective semifinals adversaries to book identical tickets to the FIBA Asia finals. China took the first finals slot with a masterful display of cage wizardry, upending the defending champs Iran 70-57. Two hours later, the Philippines followed suit by dispatching a tough-as-nails Japanese five 81-70. With the 2 contrasting wins, host China and the Philippines move to within a tantalizing game of assuming bragging rights as the kingpins of Asian Basketball and annexing a slot at the Olympic Basketball tournament next year.
China brought down the reigning champs Iran with a strong offensive transition game that left Iran’s main man, Hamed Ehadadi, huffing and puffing in the last two frames. When their transition game was checked, China rolled out a nifty inside game featuring waves of slashers and burly rebounders ready for the put-back. China has demonstrated a growing maturity and is oozing with confidence as they step on the court with a highly partisan crowd egging them on tonight.
Our Gilas warriors on the other hand had to fight tooth-and-nail against a worthy Japanese adversary, finally finding the good breaks in the last 2 minutes to break open a very close game. With the dynamic duo of Andray Blatche and Jason Castro leading the Pinoy charge, the Gilas team has also slowly acquired valuable tournament savvy in time for tonight’s finals. Expect them to put their hearts on the line as they do battle against the Great Wall of China. Gilas will be the big underdogs tonight, spotting China’s 3-inch average height advantage, plus the hometown crowd.
I’m sure that so much have been said on how the Chinese behemoths can be cut down to size. So for tonight, it’s ‘No guts, no glory’ time. To inspire our players as well as our fans, allow me to invite you to read an article I did 2 years ago, on glory nights for our Philippine team: ‘No Guts, No Glory’ Nights Recalled.
For more on our FIBA Asia campaign this year, pls read: Philippines on Inevitable Collision Course Against Formidable China.
Pics courtesy of Fibaasia.com, smartgilasbasketball.com, cnnphilippines.com