THE Philippine team to the 2017 Fiba 3x3 World Cup is excited to mark a momentous occasion when it plays in the medal round for the first time in the history of the tournament.
Officials hailed the historic accomplishment of the team composed of AJ Edu, Juan Gomez de Liano, Encho Serrano, and Rhayyan Amsali, crediting the bonding the squad has built in so short a time.
"Our greatest weapon is we did not just form a team - we created a family," said Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) 3x3 operations officer Mark Solano in an online interview from Chengdu, China.
The Philippines finished second place in Group A with a 3-1 win-loss record by beating Israel, Poland, and Turkmenistan to clinch a spot in the quarterfinal round.
Solano said the road to the knockout stage developed a special bond among members of the delegation.
"As a 3x3 basketball operations officer and as a 'dad' to these boys, I'm blessed to be working with coach Anton Altamirano in achieving the feat," said Solano.
The road, however, will be difficult from hereon as the Philippines will face Group D top-seed Belgium in the quarterfinals. The match is set at 2:50 p.m. Chengdu and Manila time.
Belgium boasts of a tall lineup that has Lenny Coppens (6-foot-4), Noah Fogang Tchendjou (6-foot-8), Ayoub Nouhi (6-foot-5), and Vincent Peeters (6-foot-4).
"Being the top team in the tournament, Belgium has the height and heft so coach Anton told our players to step up with our quickness and great ball rotation. We need to make the defense move," said Solano.
"And of course, play more physical and let them feel the Pinoy brand of basketball."