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Gilas focused on learning
On the heels of their massive 81-78 reversal over the Koreans, the Gilas youth brigade quickly moves on and shifts its focus on Indonesia, an underdog team aching to pull off its own upset in tonight’s FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers hostilities at the AUF Gym in Pampanga.
STAR/ File

Gilas focused on learning

Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - June 18, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The gutsy boys of Gilas Pilipinas refuse to get carried away by their storybook triumph over Philippine tormentor South Korea, knowing too well there’s still much work to do in their long journey.

On the heels of their massive 81-78 reversal over the Koreans, the Gilas youth brigade quickly moves on and shifts its focus on Indonesia, an underdog team aching to pull off its own upset in tonight’s FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers hostilities at the AUF Gym in Pampanga.

“We’re ready to work every opportunity we get and I think everyone has the right attitude – we’re all looking for more improvement. I know we won the (Korea) game but I think everyone’s thinking about how to improve and thinking about the next game now,” said Gilas ace Dwight Ramos, the team’s top scorer in Wednesday’s opener with 16.

For their 6 p.m. duel with Southeast Asian neighbor Indonesia, coach Tab Baldwin retained nine players from the Korea outing while activating three equally exciting greenhorns in Jordan Heading, Lebron Lopez and Geo Chiu.

The trio takes the places of Javi Gomez de Liaño, Mike Nieto and Jaydee Tungcab in the Philippine quintet up for battle against the Lester Prosper-led and Rajko Toroman-coached Indonesians.

Baldwin’s charges are essentially a “developmental” team expected to be ripe by the time the country hosts the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

But the hardworking boys made a big impact right away.

Holding their own against the seasoned and physical rivals, the all-cadet crew ground out a nail-biter through SJ Belangel’s buzzer-beating trey that ended a five-game losing streak against the Koreans dating back to 2014.

This brought back memories of the iconic break-the-Korean-curse exploits of Jimmy Alapag and Co. in the 2013 Asia Cup semis at the MOA Arena.

The huge win enabled Team Philippines to secure a spot in the FIBA Asia Cup proper in August in Indonesia. Gilas is the leading team in Group A with eight points on four straight wins.

“It’s just a great moment for Philippine basketball,” said Baldwin, lauding his charges for their herculean efforts. “(The win) is a just reward for the work these young fellas have put in.”

The gang passed its acid test against the Ra Gun-A-powered Koreans doing things by committee.

“It was a great team effort. That’s what we want, that’s what we expect and that’s what we need in order to be successful at the elite level of Asia and ultimately, the World Cup,” said Baldwin.

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