After a one-day respite where Chot Reyes and the rest of Gilas players toured on some landmarks in Beirut, a recharged Philippine squad is expected to come out with vigor when it clashes with host country Lebanon at the Nouhad Nawfal Stadium on Saturday.
The Filipinos got their minds out of basketball on Thursday, just a day after seeing their FIBA Asia Cup title chances obliterated by a hot-shooting Korean side, 118-86 in their quarterfinal collision.
Reyes told Sports5 reporter Jutt Sulit that the team outing was the only chance Gilas players have to finally do something different since playing non-stop basketball for the last 13 days.
“I wanted to get their minds off of basketball for a while,” Reyes said. “It’s been non-stop basketball since we got here. And it was our only chance, with the remaining schedule, to be able to go out and do other things as a team.”
Although Gilas has been relegated to the classification pool for fifth to eighth places, the Filipinos will try to salvage some measure of pride but this time, before a hostile crowd that will come in and support Lebanon, which is also coming off an 80-70 loss to Iran in their own quarterfinal clash.
The national squad will be facing a Lebanon side that will have 37-year-old Fadi El Khatib leading the team one last time before he finally ends his colorful international basketball career.
El Khatib, regarded as the best Lebanese basketball player, had three FIBA World Cup appearances and currently leads the tournament with 23.0 points per contest.
Reyes said Gilas may have fallen short of its goal in Beirut, but the players have come to understand that the bigger picture remains to be the FIBA World Cup qualifiers, which will start this November.
“I think the team is coming around. They’re getting more comfortable with one another,” Reyes said. “They have to understand that the bigger picture here is really the World Cup qualifiers.”
Gilas though won’t have Fil-German Christian Standhardinger anymore, who left Beirut to join the cadets team in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the Southeast Asian Games.
The Gilas cadets open the country’s title-retention bid against Thailand on Sunday at the MABA Stadium.
Earlier, Australia and New Zealand completed the semifinal cast in the FIBA Asia Cup.
The Australia Boomers blasted China, 97-71 in their quarterfinal tussle, while the New Zealand Tall Blacks routed Jordan, 98-70.
Australia and New Zealand face off in the semis in the battle of powerhouse Oceania teams, while Iran and South Korea tangle in the other Final Four pairing. The winners advance to the championship round.
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