Gilas eyes repeat over rival South Korea in FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers

Published June 19, 2021, 10:48 PM

by Jonas Terrado

Ange Kouame grabs the rebound as two South Korean players try to reach in during their FIBA Asia Cup qualifying match last Wednesday, June 16, at the AUF Gym in Pampanga. (FIBA)

Gilas Pilipinas is eager to prove South Korea that its buzzer-beating victory was not just pure luck as the two rivals square off Sunday, June 20 in the conclusion of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center in Pampanga.

The game starts at 3 p.m. with coach Tab Baldwin already drawing the battle lines after expressing his displeasure over the comments made by South Korean counterpart Cho Sanghyun that SJ Belangel’s three-pointer that sealed Gilas’ 81-78 win last Wednesday was a “lucky shot.”

Dwight Ramos, arguably the most consistent player for the national cagers since the Clark window started, is bracing for a more-determined South Korean side in the return match.

“That game’s gonna be a battle,” said Ramos. “I know they gonna come strong and try to show that our win was just a fluke.”

READ: Dwight Ramos not satisfied with Gilas win vs Korea: ‘We still need a lot of improvement’

Gilas battled back from a 17-point second quarter deficit and five with over two minutes to go behind the gallant efforts of Ramos, Kai Sotto, Ange Kouame, RJ Abarrientos, Carl Tamayo and Belangel.

“We have to come out strong and prove to them that we’re not showing that can be taken lightly. We’re young but we got that heart, puso. I think that’s what we have to do, to play our hardest,” added the good-looking 6-foot-4 guard.

South Korea has posted a pair of lopsided wins over Indonesia and Thailand since the heartbreaking defeat.

Cho’s side defeated Indonesia, 104-81, last Thursday before walloping Thailand, 120-53, Saturday, June 19.

Against Thailand, South Korean hardly played naturalized player and former PBA import Ricardo Ratliffe due to an injury, posting just five points and four rebounds in seven minutes.

But Cho assured that Ratliffe, who carries the name Ra Guna, will be ready to give it all against the Filipino cagers.

“Ra’s situation with his injury is not that severe. We just wanted to give him some break for the game tomorrow,” said Cho through an interpreter.

Another player expected to once again give Gilas some headache is Hyunjung Lee, who plays for Davidson in the US NCAA.

Lee has averaged 18.7 points on 41-percent shooting with 7.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.7 steals through three games in the third window. He had 15 points against Gilas, including a three-pointer that tied the score at 78-all with 2.9 seconds left.