Pinoys go all out vs tough Aussies

MANILA, Philippines — Gilas Pilipinas rides the momentum of its confidence-boosting 93-71 romp over Chinese Taipei Friday and hopes to draw home crowd support as it battles Australia for top spot in Group B play in the first round of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan tonight.

The Nationals clash with the Boomers at 7:30 p.m., vowing to play like hell in a bid to jack up their record into the next round of the regional eliminator for the 2019WC in China.

National coach Chot Reyes made some changes from his Taipei lineup, tapping in Baser Amer and Carl Bryan Cruz, who will take over from Jio Jalalon and Allein Malicsi.

Gilas suffered a 68-84 loss to Australia in Melbourne in February, but the rematch is surely a different game with Team Phl’s souped-up roster plus the fire and passion it expects to draw from the cheering fans.

Then there’s the Chiba game where Japan exposed a chink in the Aussies’ armor.

The Boomers suffered a very first loss in Asian basketball in a 78-79 upset by the Japanese Friday. Before that, the longtime Oceania rulers had been unbeaten in Asian continental play, making a dominant title run in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut then winning all their first four games in the Asian WC qualifiers.

Curiously, they went down in defeat on the entry of NBA players Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker.

Australian coach Andrej Lemanis said they definitely have to be on their toes if they’re to bounce back against Gilas Pilipinas.

“We didn’t come out with the intensity and intent required to play in this level,” said Lemanis on their loss to Japan.

Australia is expected to be a lot tougher coming from a loss, but Reyes is hopeful with the fact that his team does not quit.

“I can’t tell the level of optimism. But there’s no quit in this team. We just keep on fighting, and we’ll see what will happen,” said Reyes.

The winner in the Phl-Australia match carries a 5-1 win-loss mark over into the next round where they face the Top Three from Group D.

Before today’s matches, Iran leads Group D with a 4-1 mark, followed by Kazakhstan with a 3-2 slate, Iraq at 2-3 and Qatar at 1-4.

After the second phase of the qualifiers, the top three from Groups B and D join the top three from Pools A and C in outright passage into the 2019 World Cup. The best fourth placer from either side clinches the seventh and last slot.

Iran and Qatar play host to Kazakhstan and Iraq in crucial Group D plays today. Meanwhile, Chinese Taipei and Japan face off in a knockout setto in Taiwan.

Reyes said a key for them against Australia is not to give away too many offensive rebounds and hopefully to make their shots.

“We can’t give so many offensive rebounds that we gave away against Taipei. And we’ve got to be on the mark on our outside shooting. With Australia’s size and power inside, we’ve got to loosen up their interior defense with our outside shooting,” Reyes said.