INCHEON, Korea - Facing mighty Iran so early in the 17th Asian Games basketball competition has puzzled Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes ever since the schedule and tournament format was first released.
“Sama,” said Reyes when asked about his thoughts on the tournament format. “I’m perplexed by the tournament format. Just to have us play Iran so early is again pretty puzzling to me.”
“But I have learned long ago to expect the worst in international competitions. Every tournament is different. There is no rhyme or reason. We just learn how to focus on what we have control of.”
The early match-up between Iran and the Philippines is set at 2 p.m. on Thursday (1 p.m. Manila time) at the Hwaseong Sports Complex, with both teams eyeing a sweep of the Group E preliminaries.
The result of the game will also set the course of Gilas Pilipinas’s entry into the quarterfinal round where teams will be grouped into two and will play a round-robin affair.
A win by Gilas will likely move it to Group G where it will be joined by three teams including the top seed from Group C where China is bracketed.
A loss meanwhile, will have Gilas landing at Group H along with the topnotcher in Group E where host Korea belongs.
Either way, Gilas is on a collision course with the top three teams in the Asiad as per Reyes’ ranking.
“My ranking has been consistent. My number one is Iran, and then China, and then Korea because they’ll play at home,” said the fiery Gilas mentor.
But first things first, the nationals have to hurdle Iran, a team they have struggled to beat in the finals of the Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship last year in Manila.
Gilas hasn’t won against Iran ever since it won the Fiba-Asia championship in 2007.
Just last July, Iran dominated Gilas in the Fiba-Asia Cup in Wuhan, the first meeting between the two since last year’s gold medal game in the Fiba-Asia championship.
Iran will enter the game against Gilas fresh from a 76-51 rout of India in its first game in the preliminaries to match the Filipinos 1-0 record in Group E.
“For us, to have a chance to beat Iran, we have to make our outside shots. Our speed must come into play and that will happen if we play good defense, make stops, and create running opportunities for our team,” Reyes said.
Gilas has ample time to prepare for Iran this time.
Ever since stepping foot in this bustling city, Gilas has its sight train on the Iranians, mainly because the team still don’t know who its opponent will be, with the qualifiers still being played.
“We rely on adjustments, game planning, and preparation to be able to take away what stronger teams do. That’s the only way I see it that we will have a chance,” said Reyes.