Batang Gilas received a sound beating against New Zealand in the Philippine young men’s quintet final game in the FIBA Asia Under-16 Championship on Sunday, the second time the Filipinos lost to an opponent they’ve only faced for the first time since the two teams from Oceania were integrated in the Asian region.
But the losses they received from the powerhouse teams in the region, including a close one against China, will be used by coach Mike Oliver and his troops in building up for the world stage, the second time in four years the country has able to make it far.
The team was able to reach greater heights with 15-year-old, seven foot center Kai Sotto leading the way. The Philippines played without another frontliner, RC Calimag, who suffered an injury in the last two games.
But while the team is now built around big man Sotto, the Philippines will still need to rely on its potent weapon, the only way the Filipinos can pull off an upset over the heavyweight teams out there.
“The lessons we learned: we need to get stronger and develop more of our outside shooting as that’s the only way we can beat our opponents like Australia, New Zealand and China,” Oliver wrote in an exclusive interview to FoxSports.ph.
The Filipinos lost their battle for third match to New Zealand. A day earlier, they fell short in beating China, although. In 2015, Oliver’s under-16 team was able to pull off an upset win over the Chinese and nearly duplicated the feat Saturday.
“It’s a statement that we will always give our best every time we step on the floor no matter who our opponent is,” added Oliver. “They may be bigger or stronger than us, but I think they can’t take away from us yung puso natin sa laban.”
Nevertheless, it was mission accomplished for the young Pinoy cagers, who were able to get the job done of qualifying to the FIBA World Under-17 Championship late this year.
This is only the second time a team from Batang Gilas will play in the world stage since coach Jamike Jarin’s team reached the world stage in Dubai in 2014, the same year coach Chot Reyes steered the men’s squad to the World Cup for the first time in 40 years.
“Not all coaches had the opportunity to coach in a world tournament. I’m excited for our players who will have a chance to play against the best players in the world,” added Oliver.
Featured image sourced from: fiba.basketball