Becoming a cohesive team is in the works for the Gilas Pilipinas national men’s basketball team.
And this is what Team Philippines will strive to achieve when it confronts Indonesia at 6 p.m. today (Friday), with practically nothing at stake for both teams but bragging rights.
Having a better game than what they have shown against Korea will allow Gilas to move forward with more confidence in Group A of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers at Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center in Angeles, Pampanga.
Gilas posted its fourth straight win in the qualifiers, this time over Korea, 81-78, on Wednesday evening on a buzzer-beating, off-balanced triple by SJ Belangel, thereby booking a seat to the tournament proper of the FIBA Asia Cup, set this August.
Indonesia, on the other, is also in the main draw, since they are the host nation of the event.
Friday’s game could well be a no-bearing one, but it will test how far Gilas players have bonded as a team.
“There was not a lot of system and cohesion out there. We’ll get to that as time goes by. But this is the game (vs Korea), where our players just stepped up and made big plays,” said coach Tab Baldwin.
The Gilas mentor talked about his observations after their encounter with Korea.
According to Baldwin, Korea took on Team Philippines with its usual intensity and physicality. But these waned in the latter stages of the game, allowing Gilas to stay in the thick of the fight until the end.
The Indonesians have suffered two blowout losses to Korea and Gilas in the first window in February 2020.
After that, the Indonesians bounced back by taking down Thailand, 90-76, in the Bahrain window last November.
Gilas will again draw firepower from guards Dwight Ramos and Belangel and big men Angelo Kouame, Kai Sotto, Carl Tamayo and Justine Baltazar.
Kouame dished out big numbers against Korea with 12 points, 6 rebonds and 3 steals. And so did Sotto with 11 points and seven rebounds.
On the other hand, the Indonesians will bring up a strong frontline, with American-Indonesian cager Brandon Jawato finally cleared to play as he teams up with naturalized player Lester Prosper under the boards.
For months, a back injury and subsequent surgery have sidelined the 6’4” Jawato, and his return will give Prosper a good back up.
The Indonesians will also have veteran Arki Wisnu, an inside operator from Baruch College in New York and has seen action in the US NCAA Division III.
Wisnu is one of Indonesia’s top cagers, a four-time Indonesia Basketball League All-Star selection, two-time Finals MVP and league MVP in 2017.
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