CHANGSHA, China – Gilas Pilipinas is now enjoying the immediate effect of its huge win over Iran the other day in the Fiba Asia Championship.
But it still won't be easy.
By topping Group E at the end of the preliminary round Tuesday night, the Filipinos avoided a possible semifinal collision with host China, which emerged No. 1 in Group F going into the knockout stage of the qualifier to the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics.
The national team relegated Iran to No. 2 in its group, owing to its stunning 87-73 win on Monday despite the two countries finishing tied with similar 4-1 records.
Gilas will play Lebanon (No. 4 in Group F), while Iran faces Group F No. 3 team South Korea in an interesting crossover quarterfinal match up.
The Gilas-Lebanon game will be played at 9:30 p.m. at the Changhsha Social Work College gymnasium.
The seedings paved the way for an ideal scenario for Gilas, which because of the pairings won't meet defending Iran, host China or nemesis Korea until the finals.
Should it get past Lebabon, Gilas will face either Qatar or Japan in the semifinals in its quest for a first Asian championship since 1986.
Lebanon clinched the last berth to the next round after edging out Jordan in a do-or-die match, 80-76. The Lebanese and Jordanians had identical 2-3 marks, but the former made it via the winner-over-the other rule.
Gilas mentor Tab Baldwin and his coaching staff stayed on at the Changsha Social Work Colleges gymnasium to watch and scout the Lebanon-Jordan game.
“Now the games are tough, all the opponents are tough. We just have to prepare and get ready, the players will have to prepare themselves physically and the coaching staff will do the mental preparation,” said Baldwin.
“We will have to bring it all together and work as a team, which is what we’re supposed to do, and I think we’re doing better and better as we progressed.”
China, unbeaten in all of its six games so far, meets lightweight India (2-2), which finished No. 4 in Group E, with Qatar (No. 2 in Group F) battling Japan (No. 3 in Group E) in another knockout pairing.
The host country came away with an 89-65 rout of the Qataris (3-2) late Tuesday night, while early in the day India lost to Gilas, 99-65, but advanced in the playoffs over Palestine by virtue of the winner-over-the-other rule
Not unless India comes up with the mother of all upsets, China is expected to breeze to the semifinals against the survivor of the Iran-South Korea sudden-death match.