IT’S just one loss, but its fallout could haunt Gilas Pilipinas deep in the knockout rounds of the 27th Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship.
As the nation woke up with a giant hangover following Gilas' late meltdown in a 79-84 heartbreaker against Taipei on Saturday night, Gilas coach Chot Reyes was left to weigh the implications of a defeat that dimmed the hosts' chance of topping their bracket in the second round of the eliminations.
That means Gilas will have to go through the proverbial eye of the needle to reach its goal - a likely quarterfinal showdown with China and a possible face-off with formidable Iran in the Final Four.
Reyes conceded that he is well aware that the road has just become harder for Gilas in its bid to return to the world championships for the first time since 1978, but insisted he is trying not to look that far ahead.
“We’re very aware of that possibility," Reyes said. "My point is, our target is (to make the ) quarterfinals first."
The loss relegated Gilas to second place behind the unbeaten Taiwanese in Group A with a 2-1 record which it would take into the second round of the preliminaries in this biennial event where three places to nexr year's world championships in Spain are up for grabs.
After a rest day on Sunday, Gilas along with Taipei and Jordan join undefeated Group B topnotcher Qatar, Japan, and Hong Kong in Group E, while making up Group F are powerhouse Iran, South Korea, and defending champion China from Group C and Group D qualifiers Kazakhstan, Thailand, and India.
But here's the tricky part.
By topping Group A, Taipei now gets the inside track on the top spot in Group E which it can wrap up with victories over Japan, Hong Kong, and Qatar. Gilas must hope that Taipei stumbles not just once but twice to wrest the top spot away from its arch-enemy.
If it gets the job done, the Taiwanese will be gifted with a pairing against the most likely No. 4 qualifier from Group F, Kazakhstan, in the crossover quarterfinals - a privilege Gilas had hoped to get.
So where does that leave the Philippines?
With unbeaten Iran a lock for the top qualifying berth from Group F, Gilas, if it beats Qatar, Japan, and Hong Kong, will most likely end up facing the No. 3 qualifier from the other group, which could be either defending champion China or nemesis South Korea.
But since Korea beat China in the group stage, the defending champion Chinese will most likely land at No. 3 entering the quarters - and right on the path of Gilas if the Filipinos end up at No. 2 in their own group.
Assuming Gilas gets past China, a battle with mighty Iran will most likely follow in the semifinals where a place in the world championships will be on the line.
Reyes however, stands defiant.
“Whoever we play there (quarterfinals), we play," he said. "It doesn’t matter who.”