The stakes have dropped dramatically for Gilas Pilipinas when they face Indonesia on Friday in the Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers at the University of Angeles University Foundation in Pampanga.
An 81-78 victory over South Korea on Wednesday that fell at the final bell secured for the Philippines a place in the Asian championships this August in Indonesia.
But, in the name of improvement, the Philippines will do their best against their regional rival, a team they previously easily defeated in a previous window of these heats.
“We are all looking for further improvement,” said Dwight Ramos, the Nationals’ leading scorer (16 points) against rival South Korea.
On a personal level, Ramos hopes to improve his reaction to physical defenses, something that bothered him against Korea.
“It was a wake-up call for me,” Ramos said. “Only the physicality of [Korean] players. They really pushed me and I don’t think I was ready for that. But as the game progressed, I adjusted a bit, tried to protect the ball a little more. It was definitely a wake-up call for me. I think it shows that we still need a lot of improvement. “
Ange Kouame, who made his debut as Gilas’ new naturalized great man that night, is also looking for personal improvement.
“That was the hardest game of my entire career, but I hope to see more games like that. It is an experience from which we have to learn and continue to advance, ”he said.
More importantly, it gives the team a chance to take advantage of the victory against Korea.
The national team is also preparing for the Olympic Qualification Tournament in Serbia, where a difficult schedule awaits.
The Philippines host on July 1 (Manila time), have a short break, and then jump into action against the Dominican Republic on July 2.
The Serbs may not feature NBA MVP Nikola Jokic, but they will still enjoy the elite talent in Bogdan Bogdanovic and Boban Marjanovic.
The Philippines, meanwhile, will use the remainder of the qualifiers to audition their youth group for the Serbia tournament.
Gilas Pilipinas will make some changes to the roster, activating Jordan Heading, Geo Chiu and Francis Lopez. Jaydee Tungcab, Mike Nieto and Will Navarro will be relegated to reserves. Javi Gómez de Liaño, who did not play (coach’s decision) against Korea, was reinserted into the lineup, giving the U del Estado standout another chance to watch minutes on the court.
Meanwhile, Indonesia knows very well what is going through the wringer in the match that starts at 6pm.
“Tomorrow, you know, we will try to push them to the limit. That is our goal. I think they are the favorites, they are better than us, ”said coach Rajko Toroman, moments after absorbing a 104-81 loss to South Korea that also placed the latter in the Asian championship.
The Indonesians are expected to rely heavily on Lester Prosper, a great man who has traveled extensively and is the team’s naturalized player.
“We will do everything we can to give them a hard time,” Toroman said.
The Philippines complete their schedule against Korea on Sunday. INQ
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