ONE riveting win deserves a follow-up.
Gilas Pilipinas hopes to ride the momentum of its big victory over defending champion China when it takes on a tough Iraq side on Friday night in the Fiba Asia Cup in Beirut, Lebanon.
The match at The Nouhad Nawfal Stadium is set at 9 p.m. (Manila time), with both teams eyeing to book their second straight win and the solo lead in Pool B.
The Filipinos will be going to the game still on a high following their stunning 96-87 win over the defending champions Chinese on Wednesday in a rematch of last year’s final.
Terrence Romeo exploded for 26 points and scored eight of Gilas’ final 12 points to clinch the country’s first win against China since the bronze medal match of the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup.
But Iraq’s morale is also on a high after surprising Qatar, 75-66, in its debut game.
Although Gilas beat Iraq in the 39th Jones Cup just last month, 84-75, the Middle East country tweaked its lineup heading to its FIBA Asia Cup campaign.
The Iraqis replaced naturalized player Demar Mayfield with old realiable Kevin Galloway, who finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, and three assists in the win over the Qataris.
“We didn’t want to give them extra motivation ahead of the FIBA Asia but we also want to get a feel of how to play against them,” said coach Chot Reyes after Gilas’ win over Iraq in the Jones Cup.
The Iraqis also doesn’t have Dhulfiqar Al-Hchaimi in its roster, the recepient of a Fil-German Christian Standhardinger ‘cheap shot’ during their game that led to the ejection of the Gilas rookie.
But Hussein Talib is listed in the team lineup and played sparingly in Iraq’s win over Qatar. Talib is the player who injured his ankle following a Kevin Ferrer crossover in the waning seconds of their Jones Cup encounter.
From the Philippine side, Matthew Wright, Roger Pogoy, Jio Jalalon, Carl Bryan Cruz, and Standhardinger are the holdovers from the Gilas side that beat Iraq in Taipei.
Gilas ends its group phase campaign on Sunday against winless Qatar.
Other results on Thursday saw Jordan edge Syria, 68-66, Japan rout Chinese Taipei , 87-49, Australia whip Hong Kong, 99-58, Korea blast Kazakhstan, 116-55, and New Zealand escape past host Lebanon, 86-82.
New Zealand remains unbeaten in Group C (2-0) followed by Lebanon (1-1) and South Korea (1-1), and Kazakhstan (0-2).
Also with 2-0 card in Group D is Australia. Tied for second place are Japan (1-1) and Taipei (1-1), while Hong Kong is at the bottom (0-2).
Former champion Iran is on top of Group A (1-0) along with Jordan (1-0) followed by Syria (0-1) and India (0-1).