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Gilas Pilipinas had scheduled a pair of friendly matches for the 19th Asian Games with contrasting objectives: The first is just for boosting its morale while the second should be taken seriously.

Gilas head coach Tim Cone yesterday confirmed that they will be battling Gilas Pilipinas Women team and Korean club Changwon LG Sakers as part of their buildup for the prestigious continental event set from 26 September to 6 October in Hangzhou, China.

Cone, the multi-titled Philippine Basketball Association mentor, said they don’t necessarily have to go hard against the lady dribblers, who will be playing in the Asian Games for the first time ever, as their goal in their friendly game on Thursday at the Philsports Arena is just to bolster their chemistry and cohesiveness.

“It’s just some interaction with the women’s team,” Cone told Daily Tribune in an interview.

“It will be more like a joint practice. No tickets are necessary. We just want the public to come in and observe.”

Unlike in the national team’s previous friendly matches during its buildup for the FIBA Basketball World Cup, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is opening the games free to the public with Cone branding it to be a “fun” activity.

“We’re opening it up to the public, hoping that the fans will watch. It’s not gonna be a real serious practice. It’s gonna be fun,” Cone said.

Cone added that organizing a friendly match with the national cagebelles is their way of encouraging the local fans to rally behind the team, which is making a lot of heads turn following its strong performance in the previous editions of the Southeast Asian Games and the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup.

But their game against Gilas Women is not the real test.

Cone said they have to be at their best against the LG Sakers on 22 September, knowing that they are considered a powerhouse in the Korean Basketball League.

“We’re going to play them on the 22nd, 7 p.m. at Philsports and it’s going to be open for the public,” Cone said, adding that they have to revisit the Korean brand of basketball.

“We’re hoping that would probably give us a feel of South Korea because we haven’t played them for a while.”

“LG Sakers is not the national team, but we’re going to have an idea on the way they’re playing, and at least we’re going to have a feel at how they do things.”

Gilas’ game against the Koreans will serve as the final stretch of their buildup before leaving for Hangzhou. Prior to facing LG Sakers, the Filipinos will train at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba starting Saturday.

“We’ll be doing twice a day training there,” Cone, the last coach to lead the Philippines to an Asian Games medal, said.

“We’ll have one in the morning, then probably weights training in the afternoon, before training again at night.”

“The players realized the commitment they need to bring and they’re all committed to doing that.”

Naturalized players Justin Brownlee and Ange Kouame will be at the helm together with some players who are fresh from representing the country in the previous World Cup like six-time PBA Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo, Scottie Thompson, Japeth Aguilar and Roger Pogoy.

Also included in the 12-man roster are Calvin Oftana, Chris Newsome, Mo Tautuaa, Jason Perkins, Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva and Stanley Pringle while LA Tenorio, is serving as practice player but will be part of Cone’s coaching staff in the Asian Games.

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