MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas, which has got back at tormentors South Korea, Iran and China in a good run from the 2013 Manila Asian joust, also seeks revenge versus Qatar as they slug it out at the close of group plays in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup at the Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex in Beirut today.
With their rousing wins over China (96-87) and Iraq (84-68), the Nationals (2-0) are assured of a quarterfinals spot whatever happens in their 9 p.m. tussle with the Qataris (0-2).
Gabe Norwood and his teammates, however, are still expected to come out and play with their hearts out to complete a sweep in Group B and keep their momentum going to the quarterfinals set Wednesday.
What could well be another motivation for Gilas is payback for the Philippines’ shattering loss to Qatar in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon.
It could be remembered that the Nationals’ bubble from their resounding showing in the 2014 World Cup in Spain was pricked by the Incheon debacle that started with their upset by the Qataris in the second round of the elims.
Gilas coach Chot Reyes stepped down from his post after that Asiad but has since returned, himself having a shot at redemption versus the Qataris.
Norwood is the lone remnant from the 2014 Gilas team. As Reyes’ top defensive stopper, the 6-foot-4 Rain or Shine stalwart is likely to take on Qatari forward Ali Saeed Erfan who averaged 15 points and 9.5 points in their losses to Iraq and China.
Coach Kousay Khalaf’s another lethal weapon is Abdulrahman Saad, who averages 21 points, four rebounds and three assists.
It’s exciting to see how he fares against Gilas’ backcourt aces Terrence Romeo and Jayson Castro.
Saad and Erfan are among the old hands in the Qatari team that is now without their prolific naturalized player Clinton Johnson. They bowed to the Iraqis, 66-75, and suffered a 67-92 beating at the hands of the Chinese.
From a seventh-place finish in Changsha in 2015, the Qataris are dropping from 13th to 16th places.
Meanwhile, Gilas, after today’s game against Qatar, takes a two-day breather before figuring in a quarterfinal setto against a team from either Group C or Group D.
Being the Group B top finisher, the Philippines has avoided an early playoff clash with heavyweights Australia, Iran and even China.