JAKARTA -- A familiar opponent is standing in the Philippines’ way in the quarterfinals of the basketball tournament in the 2018 Asian Games.
The hastily assembled Philippine team will take on perennial tormentor South Korea on Monday at the Basket Hall of the sprawling Gelora Bung Karno complex here, with the winner advancing to the medal round.
Game time is at 10 a.m. in Jakarta (11 a.m. in Manila).
The Philippines had wanted to avoid South Korea in the quarterfinals, but a close 82-80 loss to China in pool play put the Filipinos on a collision course with the powerhouse squad. South Korea has repeatedly broken the Filipinos’ hearts in international basketball; in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut, the Koreans crushed the Philippines 118-86.
Coach Yeng Guiao has experienced his share of heartbreak at the hands of Korea but does not want revenge to be the primary motivation when they renew their rivalry.
“Syempre lahat gusto naman makabawi no, pero ayaw mo rin na manggigil ka. Pagka nanggigigil ka kasi parang yung perspective mo, nag-iiba rin,” he said. “At the back of my mind, nandun yun, pero at the same time, I also don’t want to overthink or overemphasize that in our talks.”
“Pero masarap yun na feeling pagka nakabawi ka,” he acknowledged.
More than anything, Guiao is focusing on the Filipinos’ game plan against South Korea, knowing the danger presented by their opponents. Korea’s three-point shooting has always been an issue, but now it has a strong inside presence as well in the form of naturalized player Ricardo Ratliffe, who played for the Star Hotshots in the PBA.
“Size-wise, halos pareho tayo, pero siyempre Ratliffe is stronger, probably more talented than any of our big men,” Guiao acknowledged.
“He’s their primary option,” he explained. “They give him a lot of touches, and he’s able to draw the double-team or collapse the defense, and that’s all they need for their shots to go in -- that small shooting window. So he provides them that.”
But Guiao has also said that he has a “good feeling" about the Philippines’ match-up against South Korea, thanks in large part to the presence of Cleveland Cavaliers guard Jordan Clarkson. The NBA player had a strong debut for the Philippines, dropping 28 points in the loss to China.
“I don’t think they have a match-up for Jordan,” Guiao had said.
South Korea also does not have the plethora of 7-footers like China does, which will surely make life easier for the Filipino guards.
“Sa akin, Korea is as dangerous as China, in a different way,” Guiao noted. “But kung titignan mo, mas mabuti sa atin ‘yung match-up, size-wise, against Korea.”
“So we’re hoping that our guys are able to finish stronger around the basket, hindi kamukha doon sa China na parang nagdidilim ang langit pagka-pumapasok ka sa loob eh,” he added.
“Dito siguro, may kaunting bukang liwayway.”