The prospect of Kazakhstan playing Gilas Pilipinas in the quarterfinals doesn't faze national coach Matteo Boniciolli.
The Kazakhs failed to win a single game in the second round of the Fiba-Asia championships preliminaries and are now on a collision course with the host team Philippines on Friday’s quarterfinal game following Chinese-Taipei's loss to Qatar on Wednesday.
A win by Gilas over lowly Hong Kong late on Wednesday will officially put the Filipinos at the top of Group E and, coupled by a China victory over Bahrain, and in a quarterfinal showdown with the Kazakhs who are bound to end up as the No. 4 seed from Group F.
It is clear to Boniciolli what his team will be up against.
“If it’s clear that we will play Gilas, we are the underdogs because we will play against a great coach, a great team and a great crowd,” said Boniciolli, whose team lost, 92-89 to the host team two days before the tournament in a friendly at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
But the Italian mentor said he still doesn’t discount the possibility of shocking Gilas on its home floor despite the fact that Kazakhstan is decimated by injuries to naturalized point guard Jerri Jonson, 6-8 Mikhail Yevstigneyev and 6-4 two-guard Konstantin Dvyrnyy.
“When you don’t have anything to lose, you can even play a great game as we did in the game versus China," he added. "I know my team can produce even as we saw in the scrimmage before the beginning of competition against the Philippine team.
"We can play good basketball.”, he said.
With Thursday’s break before the quarterfinal stage, Boniciolli is hopeful Jonson can be well enough to play after sustaining a shoulder injury during a scrimmage against San Mig Coffee more than a week ago.
It will be easier to fire up his players for a game against Gilas before thousands of home fans, he added.
“I always think if we play the quarterfinals, it’s better to play before 22,000 persons than in front of relatives of players. It makes (the game) more exciting, so let’s go, and see what’s going on,” said the Kazakhstan coach.
Kazakhstan failed to win a single game in the second round, losing to China (67-73), South Korea (47-71) and Iran (53-85) to wound up with a 2-3 record in the two-round preliminaries.