LOOKING good, feeling fine and playing well, Gilas Pilipinas plays Indonesia in a winner-take-all duel tonight at the Smart Araneta Coliseum with the winner booking a spot in the FIBA Asia World Cup qualifying.
Naturally, the Filipinos will enter the court heavily favored to beat the Indonesians on the final day of the Seaba championship which the local side has virtually turned into a showcase of its vaunted firepower.
The Indonesians, unbeaten in five games like the Filipinos, see action in full strength with naturalized player Jamarr Johnson and Arki Wisnu finally suiting up in time for their big battle with Gilas.
But with or without Johnson and Wisnu, the Indonesians would need a miracle to beat the Filipinos and embarrass a nation where losing in the game dearest to its heart is like dying.
The Filipino squad, made of top pros like June Mar Fajardo, Calvin Abueva, Terence Romeo and naturalized cager Andray Blanche, were to play Vietnam last night in a game that’s expected to produce the same result—an overpowering victory for Gilas.
“The team is ready against Indonesia,” said Gilas coach Chot Reyes on the eve of the big battle that is highly anticipated to draw the biggest crowd yet in the entire run of the regional qualifier for the Asian tournament.
In his first game, the 6-foot-5 Johnson readily made his presence felt, scoring 17 points on 8-for-11 shooting to go along with seven rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block as the Indons blasted Myanmar, 123-50 last night.
Johnson’s fine showing didn’t escape the attention of coach Wahyu Widayit Jati.
“He had a good game, He’ll help us against the Philippines tomorrow (today)” said Jati.
Wisnu, on the other hand, finished the game with seven points in just eight minutes of action, all in the first period for Indonesia. It was obvious he was being kept from scouts in preparation for today’s duel with the Filipinos.
“It’s good for us before facing the Philippines. I think they can give us more energy tomorrow,” added Jati.
Whether Johnson and Wisnu are really good or not, it will not matter since the Filipinos are one or two levels ahead of the Indonesians, who have yet to win this tournament since they started competing.
The other Indonesians did their part in the blowout, limiting the young Burmese squad to just eight second quarter points that led to the drubbing.
Indonesia led by as much as 75 points, 123-48, late in the final period.
Abraham Grahita and Hadianus Lakudu scored 19 and 18 points, respectively, while Mario Wuysang played just 16 minutes, scorig three points and dishing out five assists for the Indonesians.
Indonesia shot a blistering 65 percent from the field, including an excellent 15-for-32 from downtown, while forcing Myanmar to commit 33 turnovers that led to 57 points.
Wana Aung continues to lead the Burmese with 16 points while Han Thein added 12 points, six rebounds, three assists, and four steals.