AMID the euphoria of Gilas Pilipinas' sweep of its group assignments in the 2017 Fiba Asia Cup, head coach Chot Reyes put in a word of warning as the team heads to the knockout rounds.
“You all know that if we had played Korea or Japan tonight, we would have been heading home,” he said in the post-game huddle after the national side held off a fighting Qatar side, 80-74, after nearly blowing a 20-point deficit.
Reyes was obviously unhappy with three things after win No. 3 for Gilas: sloppy possessions that led to 17 turnovers against Qatar, its 28-of-71 shooting from the field, and its inability to stop guard Mansour Elhadary who scored 28 points against the Philippines.
“No way we’ll win like that. Seventeen turnovers. We shot less than 40 percent from the field. We couldn’t stop [Mansour Elhadary],” Reyes said.
The Gilas coach, of course is leaving nothing to chance as Gilas enters the most crucial phase of the 16-nation, 13-day conclave with an ideal path to a third successive appearance in the final.
After topping Pool B thanks to a 96-87 win over defending champion China in its debut, Gilas drew a bye straight to the quarterfinals where it will meet either Pool D second-placer Japan or Pool C third-placer South Korea.
Korea and Japan meet on Monday in a knockout game to decide Gilas' opponent in the Final Eight.
Reyes knows either of the two is bound to create problems for Gilas, but that can wait. Moments after the win over Qatar, the national coach spent time with Lebanon-based Filipinos who hosted a dinner for the team and savored the chance to be with their heroes.
Here are more pictures from the Beirut bash: