Gilas, Thais arrange SEABA title clash

Joey Villar, Nelson Beltran - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Gilas cadet team and Thailand rolled past their respective rivals Wednesday night to automatically arrange a gold-medal match in the 2016 SEABA Stankovic Cup and book berths in the FIBA Asia Challenge late this year.

The Filipinos and the Thais were to face each other in the last game of the elimination round in the Bangkok meet last night. But regardless of the outcome of the match, the two teams play again in a one-game finale tomorrow.

Team Phl clobbered Indonesia, 83-52, while Thailand mauled Singapore, 80-28, Wednesday to set up their Saturday titular match.

Malaysia and Singapore were relegated to the fight for third place while Indonesia was eliminated without a single win in four matches.

The Filipinos and the Thais victories also earned them slots in the FIBA Asia Challenge slated Sept. 9-18 in Tehran, Iran.

Other teams already qualified to play in the 10-team Asian joust are reigning FIBA Asia champion China and host Iran.

Still to be determined are two more qualifiers from West Asia and one each from Central Asia, East Asia, South Asia and the Gulf region.

The FIBA Asia Challenge serves as the first step in the qualifying process for the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup which features teams from FIBA Asia and FIBA Oceania for the first time.

 But though assured of spots in the Tehran tilt, the Filipinos and the Thais are expected to go all out to win the Stankovic Cup crown for pride.

The Thais showed top form in crushing Indonesia, 89-44; Malaysia, 85-66; then Singapore, 80-28.

Among the players to watch in the Thai side are big men Chanachon Klahan and Teerawat Chanthachon and guards/forwards Nakorn Jaisanuk, Chitchai Ananti and Kannut Samerjai.

Thailand coach Tim Lewis, a British national, has at his disposal the core of the Thai team that ruled the 2013 SEABA Championship. Team Phl skipped that tournament since it was already seeded in the FIBA Asia Championship as the host team.

In the last SEA Games in Singapore last year, the Thais put up a tough stand before dropping a close game against the Marcus Douthit-led Philippine cadet squad under coach Tab Baldwin, 75-80, in the semifinals.

The Thais have had their improvement under Lewis, a former head coach of the Great Britain U20 national team. Lewis also has had stints as assistant coach of the Bakersfield Jam in the NBA D-League and deputy coach of the Panama national team.

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