Is Batang Gilas in trouble in the 2016 FIBA Asia U18 Championship?

After the first 3 days of play in the 2016 FIBA Asia U18 Championship in Tehran, Iran, Batang Gilas totes a 1-win, 2-loss record, which is, for now, good for third place right behind undefeated teams China and Chinese Taipei. Our boys recently lost to both countries, and badly, too.

The Taiwanese blasted us on Day 1, 88-74, and the Chinese completely obliterated us on Day 3, 95-66. Batang Gilas’s only win has been at the expense of the Iraqis, whom we defeated, 96-79, on Day 2.

Coach Michael Oliver and his wards have to finish among the top four teams in Group A to advance to the tournament quarterfinals. There are two games left in group play, and the Philippines needs to win both to firmly secure their place among the top four, and, more importantly, lock in that third place position.

Frankly speaking, however, given how inconsistent the boys have played and how competitive our next two assignments are expected to be, Batang Gilas may just be in a bit of trouble.

On Tuesday, July 26, we take on Thailand, which has gone winless so far, but they’ve been pretty competitive in each of their matches. The Thais lost to us in the 2016 SEABA U18 Championship final, which is something that should give them added motivation. Perhaps the biggest thorn on our side, though, will be Thai-American Justin Bassey. Bassey, a native of Colorado, stands 6’4 and plays all five positions for Thailand. Bassey was scoreless in their loss to Iraq on Day 3, but he averaged 26.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in his first two games. He’ll probably be pretty pumped to go up against the Philippines, and if he goes off, our boys better watch out.

Our last group game is against another dangerous team, India, which handily won the SABA subzone qualifiers earlier this year. The Indians started this tournament on the right foot by beating Thailand on Day 1 before running into powerhouse squads China and Taiwan in succession. This team is bannered by 6’6 Vishal Gupta and a pair of explosive perimeter scorers — Baladhaneshwar Poiyamozhi and Sahil. Because our team tends to live and die with our outside shooting, if our guns go cold in this game, it’ll be pretty tough to pull out a win. Also, Batang Gilas is averaging nearly 20 turnovers a game, and if we cannot lower that number in the next two games, there’s an off chance we may miss the quarterfinal bus entirely.

Health is another thing Batang Gilas needs to look out for. In their last game against China, JV Gallego hurt his shoulder diving for a loose ball, and Jonas Tibayan had to be stretchered out of the playing area after a really bad fall. Coach Oliver has confirmed that both boys are fine as of this writing, but whether they’ll actually be able to play at 100% is still up in the air. Still, coach Oliver believes he will have a full complement of his talents by the time they tip-off against the Thais.

Complete kami sa games versus Thailand and India,” he said after their loss to China.

“‘Yun ang importante,” he added. “Kasi ‘pag manalo tayo sa kanila, #3 tayo sa bracket natin.”

That #3 is our ideal, although that doesn’t guarantee any easy match-ups in the knockout quarterfinals, where we could face any team from among perennial contenders Korea and Japan, host Iran, and lone unbeaten Group B team, Lebanon.

In all actuality, coach Oliver’s boys should be able to win their next two games and make it to the quarterfinals, but, given the way Batang Gilas has played so far, I also wouldn’t be at all surprised if we end up on the wrong side of an upset… or two. – By Enzo Flojo

Follow this writer on Twitter: @hoopnut

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