ENERGEN-PILIPINAS faces the daunting task of securing a Final Four berth in the Fiba-Asia U18 Championships as it needs to beat a tall, talented Korean side on Friday night in Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia.
The latest edition of the Philippine-Korea rivalry will be particularly important for national youth coach Olsen Racela, who has some unfinished business to take care of against the Koreans.
It was Racela who missed the two free throws in the dying seconds that allowed Korea to beat a team of PBA stars in the semifinals of the 2002 Busan Asian Games with a late three-pointer.
But more than the Busan nightmare, it was the size of this Korean youth team that preoccupied Racela's mind on the eve of the final-eight showdown.
After scouting the Korea-China match, Racela came away surprised by how tall the Korean players are. The team has an average height of 6-5.
“Haven't seen a Korean youth team this big...ever! They're almost as tall as China,” Racela tweeted.
In other quarterfinal matches, China, which beat Korea to gain the top seeding in the last eight, goes up against Saudi Arabia, Iran takes on Lebanon, and Japan faces Chinese-Taipei.
The young Filipinos ended their second round campaign with a rousing 99-72 win over Bahrain last Wednesday and finished with a 4-1 (win-loss) record in Group F.
But the Nationals found themselves in a collision course with the Koreans following an upset win by Chinese-Taipei against former champion Iran and the Sokors’ loss to China in overtime, 107-102.
A three-way tie ensued among the Filipinos, Iranians and Taiwanese at the top of Group F, but the quirks of the tiebreak system relegated Racela's team to No. 3 behind Iran and Taipei.