Gilas Pilipinas’ next assignment in the World Cup may not pack the same punch like its Friday night tormentors, but national coach Chot Reyes is cautious just the same.
What Angola lacks in skill and NBA star power, it makes up for in defense according to Reyes, and the Filipinos should be ready to deal with that come game time Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City.
“We have to make sure that we cope with the defensive pressure of Angola,” he said. “The big thing for us is to play our pace, fast pace, accelerated pace, but under control, making sure that we’re imposing our game on the other team.”
That’s not the only pressure the Philippines faces.
When they tip off against Angola at 8 p.m., the Filipinos are hoping to clean up their act following an error-riddled game against the Dominican Republic, all in the hopes of keeping alive their bid for an outright 2024 Paris Olympics spot alive.
“The story was we had 19 turnovers and we gave up like 17 offensive rebounds,” Reyes said. “We shot the ball well, but they just had a whole lot more attempts than we did.”
The top-finishing country of every continent will earn a direct ticket to the French capital for an Olympic stint.
The Black Antelopes are also in the running for that prize among the African nations and they will head into the match also eager to bounce back from a loss.
And Childe Dundão, the smallest member of the squad who put up a team-high 19 points in the 81-67 loss to Italy, said that they remain a confident bunch despite the botched upset of the Azzurri.
“We’re confident because we had a good game today, and we’ll try to compete again with the Philippines,” he said.
Gilas has added motivation to beat Angola as doing so not only gives them their first win in this World Cup, but it absolves the program for its horrendous outing in the 2019 edition of the tournament held in Foshan, China.
There, Gilas fell to the Angolans in overtime, 84-81—a memory that should still sting for CJ Perez, who was big in that match, and Kiefer Ravena, who muffed a triple that would’ve forced another extra session.
But all those reasons are no bigger than the race for the Olympic ticket among Asian teams.
“This is a promising start [compared] to the last World Cup start that we had,” Ravena, even with a long face, told a pair of reporters after Friday’s loss, before heading for the dugout. “Hopefully, it gets better from this, yes?”
Jordan Clarkson, Gilas’ naturalized ace who fouled out in the final 3:32 of the loss to the Dominicans, is looking to make sure of that.
“Just keep competing like we did now,” he said following a 27-point job spiked with seven rebounds and just as many assists.
“We fought hard. Something didn’t go our way towards the end, we just got to finish well and get the next one.”
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