TAIPEI - Gilas Pilipinas is just about ready to pack its bags and head home after more than a week in this Taiwanese capital.
But first, there's one final business to take care of.
The Philippine men's team takes on longtime rival Iran at the close of its campaign in the 39th Jones Cup, eager to put a fitting end to a week that has seen significant progress for Gilas teams bound for both the Fiba Asia Cup and the Southeast Asian Games.
With a 5-3 (win-loss) record, Gilas is out of the running for the championship it last won in 2012 with a team led by MVP LA Tenorio. But head coach Chot Reyes is seeking validation for the gains this team composed mostly of youngsters has made.
Iran won this championship in 2015 and the game against the Philippines was projected by organizers as one of the highlights of the tournament - the reason it was scheduled to close the tournament.
However, just like Gilas, the Iranians have a team without stars Hamed Haddadi and Samad Bahrami, sending instead members of its Team B sprinkled with a couple of players who will likely be elevated to Team A for the Fiba Asia Cup in Lebanon next month.
Still, Reyes expects a tough final test for a Gilas side made up of players who will form the backbone of the campaign to retain the SEA Games gold medal in Kuala Lumpur.
"We want to finish strong. We know Iran has brought a lot of its up and coming players and there's a couple of team who are in the national team," said Reyes ahead of the 5 p.m. match at the Taipei Heping Gymnasium here.
"Just like us, they mostly have cadets here so it's gonna be a good test. We're taking it very seriously and we just want to finish the tournament on a high note."
Fil-German Christian Standhardinger is expected to lead the SEA Games campaign as a naturalized player, with the vastly improved Carl Bryan Cruz and Troy Rosario expected to back him up in the frontline.
Amateur stars Kiefer Ravena, Rayray Parks and Kobe Paras will also play big roles in the team to be coached by Jong Uichico.