MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippines is looking to return to the win column in the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers when it takes on Qatar on Monday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The game will be played under unique circumstances: the Big Dome will be closed to fans as part of the Philippines’ sanctions for its involvement in a brawl against Australia last July at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Leading the way for the Philippines are veterans Gabe Norwood, Paul Lee and Asi Taulava, while coach Yeng Guiao again tapped San Miguel guards Alex Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter along with Ginebra’s Scottie Thompson.
Returning from a one-game suspension are Japeth Aguilar and Matthew Wright, while Stanley Pringle will be the country’s naturalized player against Qatar, after Christian Standhardinger got the nod in Iran.
The Philippines is seeking its first victory in the qualifiers since crushing Chinese-Taipei, 93-71, last June. Since then, they had lost to Australia in a fight-marred game, 89-53, then bowed to Iran in their first game of the second round last Thursday, 81-73.
They are favored to get that much-needed triumph against Qatar, a team that is reeling from a 95-43 beating at the hands of Australia last week. The visitors are set to field a young squad, with several of their veterans sitting out due to injuries.
“We don’t want to focus on the weaknesses of Qatar,” Guiao told reporters on Sunday evening, after their practice at the Araneta Coliseum. “We want to focus on what the rest of the team can do, and be able to prepare and be ready for that.”
“They still have weapons. There are still four or five guys in this team that can hurt us. So if we are overconfident or if we take them for granted, this team can still hurt us, and they're still very dangerous,” he warned.
As it stands, the Philippines has a 4-3 record in Group F of the qualifiers, just behind Iran and Australia, which both have 6-1 win-loss records.
Only the top three teams from each group as well as the best fourth placed teams will earn spots in the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
The Philippines need to defeat Qatar so as to stay in the hunt for one of those World Cup berths.
“We gotta take advantage of this game,” said Norwood. “At the end of the day, we gotta take care of our business, and take care of what we can control.”
“This one is a big one for us,” he stressed. “Qatar is coming off a rough game, and I’m sure they have a lot to prove.”
Game time is at 7:30 p.m.
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