The last time the Philippines men's national basketball team played on its home turf, its surroundings were quiet and the Big Dome almost empty.
Returning for another pair of qualifying games for the 2019 FIBA World Cup -- both as hosts -- Gilas Pilipinas wants its fans to bring the noise back.
The Filipinos welcome Kazakhstan at Mall of Asia Arena on Friday, looking to strengthen their hold of third place in their group and hoping to lock a spot in the World Cup before this fifth window of the preliminary round is over.
Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.
Head coach Yeng Guiao is churning out a lineup with a right mix of size and speed. June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter are finally teaming up, along with Japeth Aguilar. In the back court, Guiao tapped Stanley Pringle for the squad's lone naturalized spot, adding Alex Cabagnot, LA Tenorio and Scottie Thompson.
The rest of the roster consists of: Beau Belga, Poi Erram, Marcio Lassiter, Gabe Norwood, and Matthew Wright.
"We should be ready," Guiao said. "It's going to be a physical game, so we're ready for that."
In their previous game, the Filipinos downed Qatar 92-81 in a closed-door game at Araneta Coliseum, part of a one-off penalty for the July 2 brawl against Australia.
With the MoA Arena opening its gates to fans, expect Gilas, currently in third place in Group F with a 5-3 record, to feel home-court advantage.
The Philippines beat Kazakhstan 96-59 in their last meeting at the Asian Games in Jakarta in August, but Guiao said it's wrong to feel complacent against a squad that's still in the running for a World Cup spot.
"Sa nangyari doon sa Asian Games, I'm sure they'll make adjustments," Guiao said.
"So we cannot totally rely on what we did in the Asian Games. I’m sure they’re going to do something different. So we’re just putting in some options just in case they try to differ from their original game plan in the Asian Games."
In the day's other games, Australia tries to lock the top spot in Group F when it hosts Iran in Melbourne, while Japan, without its big names, welcomes Qatar.
Australia currently sits atop the group with a 7-1 record, followed by Iran (6-2), the Philippines, Japan (4-4), Kazakhstan (3-5) and Qatar (2-6).
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