PHOTO: Fiba Asia Cup

EVEN with a two-win streak over rival Korea in the recent 2021 Fiba Asia Cup Qualifiers, Ange Kouame guaranteed that Gilas Pilipinas won't be overconfident when the two teams face off again in two months.

"Going against Korea will be a good challenge that I think all of us want to face again," the naturalized big man told SPIN Life.

Earlier this week, the Philippines was slotted into Group A with Korea, New Zealand, and India for the first round of the 2023 Fiba World Cup Qualifiers this November.

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    Ange Kouame reflects on renewed rivalry

    The last time the two teams met was in June, when the Filipinos pulled off back-to-back wins against the Koreans: the first one a clutch buzzer-beater victory, 81-78, on June 16, followed by an 82-77 conquest a mere four days later.

    The twin victories was a morale-boosting new chapter in the storied rivalry between Gilas and the Asian powerhouse.

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    The last time PH scored a back-to-back against Korea was back in the 1970s. And these college standouts — the youngest Gilas squad formed — made it happen again in 2021.

    Among the consistent standouts in the team, alongside the likes of Dwight Ramos, Carl Tamayo, Will Navarro, Kai Sotto, Matt Nieto, SJ Belangel, and RJ Abarrientos, was the 6-foot-10 Ivorian-Filipino.

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    And while the country is already qualified into the World Cup as hosts, Kouame revealed they’re not taking these road games any less seriously.

    Aside from the Koreans, who are surely eyeing revenge, New Zealand and India will be brand-new tests for the young PH core.

    “It’s a tough position, and at the same time, a [good] one. Every country part of the qualification deserved and earned its spot,” said Kouame. “It’s an [honor] to represent the country at the high level.”

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    PHOTO: Fiba Asia Cup
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