Win vs Japan, Taiwan to fire up Team Gilas in duel with Aussies

By Nelson Beltran

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MANILA, Philippines — Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes stressed the goal is to sweep Japan and Chinese Taipei in the initial window of the Asian World Cup qualifiers late this month to build momentum for an expected uphill battle against world No. 9 Australia in February.

Bracketed with the Japanese, the Taiwanese and the Aussies in Group B, the Filipinos need to make the Top Three in their pool to advance to the next round where they will tangle with the Top Three from among Iran, Kazakhstan, Qatar and Iraq in Group D.

The ultimate goal, however, is to make the Top Seven among 16 teams in this qualifying event to grab a berth in the 2019 World Cup in China and hopefully the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Reyes said they’re aiming high and have their sights set beyond 2019.

“The goal is clear – a ticket to the 2020 Olympics,” said Reyes in a Fiba.com report.

And Reyes insisted they are determined to get to a winning start in the home-and-away series that will begin with the double-round-robin group competition.

“That is why we will be competitive versus both Japan and Chinese Taipei,” said Reyes, optimistic of forming a formidable final lineup from his pool including the core of the triumphant Phl team to the SEABA Championship.

“It’s very important that we get these two (Japan and Chinese Taipei). We cannot look past anybody. Our entire focus right now is on Japan, and then after that we can think of Chinese Taipei,” he said.

Gilas Pilipinas is to play before a sellout crowd versus Japan at the Komazawa Gymnasium in Tokyo on Nov. 24.

Except for its final lineup, Japan is all set for its hosting of the game, reporting over Fiba.com that the tickets made available for the match have been gobbled up.

The Philippines and Japan have had their searing rivalry from the early years of the Asian Basketball Confederation (FIBA Asia) championships.

The Filipinos and the Japanese won six of the first seven ABC jousts from 1960 to 1973, with Team Phl reigning supreme in 1960 in Manila, 1963 in Taipei, 1967 in Seoul and 1973 in Manila while Japan topped the competition in 1965 in Kuala Lumpur and 1971 in Tokyo.

But the Philippines was merely seventh placer while Japan finished ninth in the last FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut, Lebanon.

Former PBA import Ira Brown and Takeuchi brothers Joji and Kosuke banner the Japanese team.

From Tokyo, Gilas flies back to Manila to play its first home game at the Smart Araneta Coliseum versus the Quincy Davis-led Taipei team on Nov. 27.

To complete their games, the Filipinos fly to Australia for their Feb. 22 tiff, host the Japanese on Feb. 25, tackle the Taiwanese in Taipei on June 29 and play their last home game versus the Aussies on July 2.

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