Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin said there were a lot of positives that they could glean from the 79-all draw that they forged with Asian basketbetball powerhouse China in their tune-up game on Wednesday evening at the Angeles University Foundation in Pampanga.
Playing with just 11 men and missing the services of ace wingman Dwight Ramos and talented Cebuano forward Carl Tamayo, victory was almost Gilas’ as they led 78-71 with just 1:07 to go in the game.
However, China came alive in the game’s dying seconds, finally tying it right before the final horn sounded, thanks to 7-foot-5 big man Liu Chuanxing who shot in the putback in the nick of time.
“I was pleased with the way the guys responded, it was a high-energy game. China played very physical basketball and it pushed us to the limit, they got off to a good start,” shared Baldwin. “Again, we just showed that fighting spirit and found ways, came back, and at times looked very good out there.”
Baldwin was also pleased with how his team adjusted to playing against a team that played nowhere near the likes of the teams that they recently battled in Group A of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers.
“We dealt with something different today compared with what we dealt with during the window. I’m pleased with the progress,” added Baldwin. “Again, we’ll break the video down and figure out what we need to work on more. We played a lot more zone tonight and our zone looked okay. A lot of positives out of the game,”
The American-New Zealander coach, though, admitted that he didn’t have high expectations heading to the tune-up match.
“Look, I think the team has exceeded my expectations in most areas. But I was pretty realistic coming in and my expectations weren’t very high,” quipped Baldwin. “The fact that they exceeded my expectations doesn’t really take any of the pressure off from trying to make progress in every practice and every game. We still have a long way to go so I’m not in the mood to be throwing compliments around.”
Still, the result was a morale-booster for the Gilas, which is flying to Belgrade, Serbia on Thursday to compete in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. It is also another step in the right direction towards the Gilas’ goal of doing well in the FIBA World Cup in 2023.
“I recognize that the guys have done extremely well and the results were flattering but the important thing is they have a lot of growth in front of us. We have two years but we need every minute of it,” said Baldwin. (JNP)