Gilas vs China or Korea in quarters

Games Today

(Mall of Asia Arena)

10:30 a.m. - Japan vs Jordan

12:45 p.m. - Iran vs Kazakhstan

3 p.m. - Taiwan vs Qatar

5:45 p.m. - Bahrain vs China

8:30 p.m. - Hong Kong vs Philippines

10:30 p.m. - India vs Korea

Mountain-climbing, hopefully, had been part of Gilas Pilipinas' training for the 27th FIBA Asia Championship.

If not, then there's one heck of scaling to be done by the Nationals in the knockout quarterfinals, with the imposing Great Wall of China looming right ahead in the horizon.

Unless tragedy strikes the preliminary round leaders - Taiwan in Group E, and Iran and South Korea in Group F - on the final two days of eliminations, the road to the 2014 FIBA World Cup for Gilas would be through the defending champion Chinese with their three former NBA players and 15 Asian championships.

As things stand and devoid of late upheaval in closing matches yesterday and today, Group E will have Taiwan on top, either the Philippines or Qatar (playing each other at presstime) at second and third, and Japan at fourth. Group F will usher in Iran, South Korea, China and Kazakhstan in that order.

Following the FIBA Asia format that calls for E1 vs F4, E2 vs F3, E3 vs F2 and E4 vs F1 in the quarterfinals, the pairings will showcase Taiwan vs Kazakhstan, PH or Qatar vs China, PH or Qatar vs South Korea, and Japan vs Iran.

The four winners then move to the semifinals where the top three countries earn passage to Spain. The two finalists are qualified outright to the world championship while the two losing semifinalists dispute the third spot.

Qatar and the Philippines can pick their quarterfinal poison: China or South Korea.

Drawing China would mean being on the same semifinal bracket with two-time champion Iran, while getting South Korea calls for a Final Four meeting with either Kazakhstan or preliminary round tormentor Taiwan.

Such was the heavy price paid by Gilas for losing a 13-point lead going to the fourth quarter against the Taiwanese last Saturday. Instead of an E1 position and a date with Kazakhstan (F4), the Nationals now settle for E2 or E3 and take the road where either deadly snipers (Korea) or 7-foot giants (China) roam.

But there's no crying over spilled milk now.

As Gilas coach Chot Reyes said after Gilas bombed Japan, 90-71, Monday, "Against Qatar (late last night), we have to be able to switch our thinking back to a different style altogether."

Reyes said that Gilas has played in succession two teams with similar styles - Taiwan and Japan. Qatar is a totally different opponent however.

"They (Qataris) are big, bruising, and like to pound (the ball) inside," Reyes said. "It's really going to be a tough game. We just hope we can generate a lot confidence from the victory (against Japan)."

Other than the PH-Qatar match, focus will be on the Japan-Taiwan game at 3 p.m. where a victory by the Japanese followed by another win by Qatar over the Taiwanese today could shake up the Group E standings and vault the Philippines to No. 1.

In late Sunday action, South Korea exploited the absence of CJ Giles in dumping Bahrain, 96-51, while Jordan routed Hong Kong, 80-54, in the first game of Day 5 yesterday.

Gilas now wraps up its preliminary round assignment against Hong Kong, a team not expected to give the Nationals much problem after the first few minutes.