By Jhon Mark Trinidad
The Philippines’ under-16 national basketball team, collectively known as Batang Gilas, will vie for basketball glory in the upcoming 5th FIBA Asia U-16 Championship at Foshan, China from April 2 to 8.
Initially, 16 countries will compete for this age-specific tournament, but only 13 teams remained on track for the goal of becoming this year’s U-16 basketball kings after the withdrawal of Kazakhstan, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, the 5th edition of the youth biennial meet is even more exciting and competitive since Australia and New Zealand will have their debut participation in the competition since its inception in 2009.
Batang Gilas, which qualified to the continental competition by virtue of winning the 2017 SEABA U-16 Championship, is in Group B along with first timer Australia and Southeast Asian neighbor Malaysia. Other groups are as follow: Group A (China, New Zealand, Hong Kong), Group C (Iran, Chinese Taipei, Macau), and Group D (defending champion South Korea, Japan, Lebanon, India). The top team in each group after a single round-robin elimination will directly qualify to the quarterfinals while the second and third best teams will earn playoff spots for a battle to the remaining quarterfinal berths.
Batang Gilas will be parading a tall line-up to be led by 7’2 center and 15-year old Kai Zachary Sotto. Adding ceiling to the team are Geoffrey Chiu (6’8), Raven Cortez (6’7), and Joshua Lazaro (6’5). Completing the squad are Yukien Andrada, Christian Calimag, Terrence Fortea, Rafael Go, Mclaude Guadaña, Rence Padrigao, King Balaga, and Jerick Kyle Bautista. The head coach of the Philippine youth team is Michael Oliver.
#FIBAU16Asia Batang Gilas sched:
April 2, 2018 – vs Malaysia 🇲🇾
April 4, 2018 – vs Australia 🇦🇺
Tayo na lang ang hinihintay! 🇵🇭🇵🇭🇵🇭
Para sa bayan. Laban Pilipinas!!!!
— Gilas Pilipinas Army (@gilasarmy) March 16, 2018
Batang Gilas will have their baptism of fire against Malaysia on April 2. Then on April 4, the Philippine squad will go all out against the dominating Australia. The second match is considered an acid test for Batang Gilas because they will be facing Australia which is a 2-times silver medalist at the FIBA U-17 Basketball World Cup. Both preliminary match will take place at Foshan Lingnan Mingzhu Gymnasium.
The highest finish of the Philippines at this tournament is silver during the 2013 championship held at Tehran, Iran. Hence, the current batch of Batang Gilas has the amazing opportunity to be the first Filipino team to lift and take home the U-16 basketball trophy. Aside from a chance of maiden golden finish, Batang Gilas can also bring back the basketball mad country on world stage as the top 4 teams of the tournament will qualify to the 2018 FIBA Under-17 Basketball World Cup which will be held at Argentina on June 30 to July 8.
All the best, Batang Gilas!
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