THE men and women’s basketball teams leave for Myanmar on Wednesday filled with hope of pulling off a double gold output in the 27th Southeast Asian Games.
Although both have minor concerns going to the biennial meet, players of the two teams assure everybody at the PSA Forum in Shakey’s Malate they will be doing their best to give honor to the country.
“We’re expecting no less than a gold medal since we’ve been dominating the SEA Games ever since,” said men’s team captain Kevin Alas.
To which women’s co-team captain Joana Grajales quipped, “Iba na ito, labanan na ito para sa gold.”
While they are leaving for Myanmar earlier, the two teams won’t be playing their first game in the biennial meet until Monday.
The Perlas ng Pilipinas squad of coach Haydee Ong kicks off its campaign against Malaysia, followed by Thailand the following day. The Filipina cagebelles will then have a four-day rest, before plunging back into action on December 15 against Indonesia, before capping their campaign against the host country on the 16th.
For its part, the Sinag Pilipinas team of coach Jong Uichico play Singapore on the 9th and Cambodia on the 10th, before taking a rest on the 11th. The Filipinos resume their campaign against Myanmar on December 12, followed by Thailand (13th), Indonesia (14th), and Malaysia (15th).
“It’s a puzzle for us that they’ll start early and finish late,” said Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) executive director Bernie Atienza, who accompanied the team in the session presented by Shakey’s and the Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) along with women’s team manager Cynthia Tiu, co-captain Merenciana Arayi, and Matt Granuelas.
“We’re leaving tomorrow (today), but will be playing on Monday. It’s not really the physical conditioning that we are concerned, but more on the boredom.”
Josh Reyes, who serves as one of Uichico’s deputies, welcomed the long break though, stressing it will give the men’s team the time to rest given the tight schedule the players have suiting up for both their mother teams (college and amateur) and the national squad.
“The last thing you want to happen is go to Myanmar with injured players. So for us, it’s a welcome opportunity to rest our players,” said the son of Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes.
The national team assistant coach considers Thailand, Indonesia, and last-minute entry Singapore as biggest threats to the Filipinos’ bid for the gold, especially the Singaporeans, whom he claims will be bannered by big man Russel Low, a veteran of the Asian Youth Games in 2010.
Ong, meanwhile, is unfazed by the prospect of playing Malaysia right on the team’s opening game. The Malaysians beat the Filipina cagebelles in the last Fiba-Asia For Women’s in Bangkok.
“The team is prepared for our first game. We already made adjustments on our offense and in transition,” she said. “Yung apat na makakalaban naman natin lahat kasali sa Fiba-Asia, ang hindi pa lang naman namin nakakalaban is `yung Myanmar.”