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Japan ace: Beat Gilas, be in top form

Yuki Togashi.

MANILA, Philippines — Gilas Pilipinas has struck fear into the heart of the Japanese who believe they have to be at their best to beat the Filipinos in their match in the opening window of the FIBA Asia World Cup home-and-away qualifying series on Nov. 24 at the Komazawa Sports Gymnasium in Tokyo.

In the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, the Filipinos swept the Japanese in two games, scoring a 73-66 win in the elimination round then repeating with an 81-70 triumph in the semifinals.

“I think speed will be important,” said ace Japan playmaker Yuki Togashi in their rematch with the Filipinos.

“The Philippines are very strong with their one-on-one plays, as if they are playing street ball. We have to be careful because with their strong offense, they can score 10 points in just a minute or two,” Togashi also said on a report.

“We have to step up on defense, including myself, and then from there we have to make sure to get the defensive rebounds, which has been a problem for us. If we can get the rebounds, I can run the fastbreak,” added Togashi, an NBA D-League veteran with the Texas Legends.

A key addition that could help the Japanese in every aspect of the game is former PBA import Ira Brown.

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There’s also new coach Julio Llamas and the new system that the Japanese have embraced.

Even then, the Japanese feel they’re the underdogs versus the Filipinos especially with Gilas’ better finish in the recent FIBA Asia Cup. Team Phl wound up seventh while the Japanese finished ninth.

The Filipinos, however, are behind in preparation for their Nov. 24 rematch.

Though opening their training camp on Nov. 3, coach Chot Reyes and the pool are still awaiting naturalized player Andray Blatche a week to go to the match.

 “That’s why we go to the very last day to announce the final 12,” said Gilas team manager Butch Antonio when asked until when the national coach would decide on the status of Blatche.

Blatche’s initial words were he’s joining the camp on Monday. But apparently, he’s decided not to skip his team’s game in the CBA today before finally flying over to the Philippines.

An important activity that Blatche has missed was Gilas’ three-day camp at Taal Esplendido that ended Wednesday.

In a photo posted by Reyes on his Twitter account, present in the camp were June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Raymund Almazan, Troy Rosario, Gabe Norwood, Allein Maliksi, Matthew Wright, Calvin Abueva, Mac Belo, Kiefer Ravena, RR Pogoy, Carl Bryan Cruz, Kevin Alas and Jayson Castro.

The pool leaves for Tokyo on Tuesday.

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