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Gilas brace for ‘real war’

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — A deadlier, more prepared Gilas Pilipinas side is expected to show up when the sudden-death semifinal of the men’s basketball tournament of the 32nd Southeast Asian Games unwrap on Monday at the Elephant 2 Hall of the Morodok Techo National Stadium here.

The Filipinos have yet to determine their semifinal opponent, but head coach Chot Reyes is already burning the midnight oil in preparation for an all-out war in the semifinal that is set at 4 p.m. (Manila time).

Gilas will face the victor between reigning champion Indonesia and powerhouse Thailand in the semifinal for a victory that will send them to the gold medal match.

The Indonesians and the Thais are still clashing at press time.

Gilas used their one-day breather on Mother’s Day, not just to stay connected with their loved ones back home, but also to rest and recover in preparation for the all-important semifinal battle.

Reyes and his chief deputy, Tim Cone, on the other hand, used their time off to carefully study the Indonesians and the Thais, knowing that they will do everything to avert the Filipinos’ return to Southeast Asian glory.

“It’s all we do all day with the team,” said Cone, the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel mentor who steered Gilas to a gold medal in the 30th SEA Games in Manila last year.

“The coaching staff studied videos and watched Indonesia and Thailand. It was a busy time for us. There’s no off day.”

After suffering the backlash caused by their embarrassing 68-79 loss to Cambodia last Thursday, the Filipinos restored order when they massacred Singapore by 60, 105-45, to close their preliminaries campaign on a high note.

Naturalized player Justin Bronwlee and CJ Perez set the tone early, powering Gilas to drop a 21-0 bomb early on to dictate the tempo that greatly demoralized the Singaporeans.

Reyes said their annihilation of the Singaporeans wasn’t just a simple show of force or a bounce-back performance, but also a way of preparing for the semifinals against either Indonesia or Thailand.

“We know that we’re not going to get a quality practice, so we used the game against Singapore as some sort of a preparation for our next game on Monday,” said Reyes, who drew the biggest, most painful criticism from basketball godfather Manny Pangilinan following their loss to Cambodia.

“We wanted to forget about the loss and get the players to focus on the big picture. We came here to win the gold. As for us, coaches, we spent time studying videos on both teams (Indonesia and Thailand).

But Brownlee said the real war wasn’t against Cambodia or Singapore.

The real battle is the semifinal.

“We lost to Cambodia, but I don’t think it’s going to be a deciding factor in the tournament. We’re still gonna go out there and get the gold medal,” said Bronwlee, who is expected to draw support from Perez, Christian Standhardinger, Marcio Lassiter, Mike Phillips, Jerom Lastimosa and Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser.

“We learned a lot from that loss, but we have to move forward and get those learnings for our upcoming game.”

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