A looming question surrounds the upcoming match-up of Gilas Pilipinas and Lebanon in the sixth and last window of the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers:
Can Gilas win against the towering giants?
With five wins and three losses, the Philippine basketball team faces Lebanon, the third runner-up in the 2022 FIBA Asia Cup Indonesia. The Lebanese are towering over their group for the World Cup qualifiers, having seven wins with only one loss.
In their meeting last August 26, Gilas fell short despite having NBA player Jordan Clarkson and future star Kai Sotto leading the team. Despite having a roster of PBA stars and Japan B. League players, the team failed to make the cut. They lost by an inch to Lebanon, 85-81.
Meanwhile, Lebanon is incomplete going into the game. Lebanese star Wael Arakji was not included in Coach Jad El Hajj’s lineup due to undisclosed reasons.
However, the Philippine team is also going to the game without their two biggest players—Sotto and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Japeth Aguilar.
The remainder of Gilas now includes PBA’s reigning MVP, Scottie Thompson, along with PBA stars Chris Newsome, Calvin Oftana, Jamie Malonzo, and Roosevelt Adams. Japan B. League players Bobby Parks, Dwight Ramos, and brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena are also part of Coach Chot Reyes’ lineup.
Gilas to go hard on Lebanon
According to Reyes, the Philippines will not take for granted the absence of Arakji because they too, have lost valuable pieces.
“We’re playing the best team in Asia,” he said. “Lebanon finished second in the last FIBA Asia Cup against Australia, and Australia is not in Asia, so for me, the No. 1 team in Asia today is Lebanon. This is a good test for us.”
The Philippines, as a host country, is automatically qualified for the World Cup. The world tournament will begin on August 25 and until September 10.
Apart from 7’2 Sotto, Clarkson will also not be playing. Also, Carl Tamayo, Roger Pogoy, Raymond Almazan, and Poy Erram are no longer with the team.
“We have a different team then, facing Lebanon, we have Kai (Sotto), we have Jordan (Clarkson), and now, we don’t have any of those guys. It’s going to be a good test for the rest of the guys,” Reyes pointed out.
What do you think OKBET players? Will Gilas triumph over Lebanon? Or will this be another case of Deja Vu?
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