THE Gilas youth team faces tall odds as it battles two-time defending champion China for the title of the Fiba-Asia U16 Championship in what coach Mike Jarin describes as the `biggest game’ of the young Filipinos’ careers.
Jarin acknowledged the immense advantage the Chinese have against his team going to their championship showdown late Friday night at the Azadi Sports Complex in Tehran, Iran.
“This is the biggest game for us, probably in our career,” said Jarin shortly after the Philippines arranged a title finale against China following its come-from-behind 77-72 win over Chinese-Taipei in Thursday night’s semifinals.
“It’s a tall order for us to win against the Chinese, pero they are not invincible,” added the longtime Ateneo Blue Eaglets coach.
Unlike the Filipinos, the towering defending champions breezed their way to the gold medal match by routing Japan, 99-78, in the other semifinal pairing.
“They have the height and speed. But we will not bow down. We will rely on our heart,” Jarin stressed.
The Chinese team, according to Jarin, has an average height of 6-7 - still two inches taller than Gilas youth team center Richard Escoto.
Boasting of a seven-footer at the middle in Hu Jinqiu, the Chinese also has four other players standing at 6-foot-8 and above.
“Aside from their height, they are also very agile. They post up. They run well and they have a terrific shooting from the outside,” said Jarin of the Chinese team which is coached by Liu Jizheng.
Asked how the smaller Filipinos will be able to defend Hu and Co., Jarin could only shake his head.
“They rely well on their height. We just need to frustrate them, second we have to make them shoot from the outside which is a lower-percentage (shot),” he said.
“It’s a tough task, so we’ll see.”
The Gilas youth team has so far been banking on the offensive prowess of Seaba Most Valuable Player Jolo Mendoza and a slew of marquee players in Matt and Mike Nieto, Jose Go, and Emmanuel Panlilio.
But against China, Jarin believes the Filipinos need to double their efforts.
So good is the Chinese team that Jarin believes a number of its players will someday make it to the NBA.
“This is probably the biggest crop of NBA exports from China. They are so good,” said the Gilas youth team coach.
Regardless of the outcome of the match, MVP Sports Foundation president Al Panlilio is very proud of that these kids had achieved.
“Ang laki ng puso ng players natin. We lacked preparation. The China game is just our eighth game together. Pero hindi matatawaran ang ipinakita nila,” said the amiable Metro Pacific Corporation top brass who’s been in Iran since Wednesday last week.
By advancing to the gold medal round, the Philippines booked a berth in the Fiba-World U17 Championship in Dubai next year, and is assured of its best placing in the tournament since landing in fourth in the first two editions of the tournament.