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Can Gilas play the Asia Cup Final for the 3rd consecutive time?
MANILA (FIBA Asia Cup 2017) - The Philippines belong to an elite group that have made it to the FIBA Asia Cup Final back to back times. But can they play in their third consecutive title game this year?
In the FIBA Asia Cup 2015, Gilas Pilipinas had to stave off a determined Japanese side in the Semi-Final, 81-70, to book a Final matchup with hosts and perennial tormentors China. The Chinese prevailed in that affair, 78-67, two years after the Philippines lost to Iran in the tournament Final played on their own home floor, 85-71.
Returning head coach Chot Reyes, however, is hoping that third time's the charm for a country that has long waited for a return to championship glory. The road at the FIBA Asia Cup 2017 will be very tough, though, especially considering the entry of Oceania powerhouses Australia and New Zealand along with a revamped tournament format.
Unlike the previous four editions of the biennial competition, only the top team from each group after the Group Phase will automatically advance to the Quarter-Final, while the 2nd and 3rd place teams of each group will have to play in a Qualification to Quarter Finals to fill up the remaining four slots in the Quarter-Final.
This means that the Filipinos must top their group - composed of China, Iraq and Qatar - to advance to the Quarter-Final without trouble. Failing to do so means Gilas run the risk of losing in the Qualifying Phase and falling short of the Top 8 altogether.
As of now, however, so many things are still not falling into place for the Philippines, including not having a full complement of PBA players whom coach Chot can place in the preliminary 24-man national pool to be submitted by today.
"We have no choice here, we have to be very patient," Reyes told local media after Wednesday practice. "That's the kind of situation we are facing. We have no recourse but to stay patient."
Basketball-crazy Filipino fans are hoping to see their very best talents because they know that if Gilas are at full strength, though, they should be among the strongest teams at the FIBA Asia Cup 2017.