HANGZHOU, China — After LA Tenorio concluded team prayer Thursday as Gilas Pilipinas wrapped up afternoon practice for the Asian Games final against Jordan on Friday, 6 October, head coach Tim Cone delivered the mantra that was to govern their approach to the gold medal game.
“Guys, yesterday ain’t last night,” Cone told the gathered players. “There’s no more yesterday, it’s all gone. Don’t live there, don’t live in the past. You gotta start living forward. Move forward, fellas. Move forward.”
The group mumbled in agreement and then broke up.
With that, the Nationals put behind them the gut-wrenching one-point win over Iran in the quarterfinals and the “miraculous” one-point victory over host China in the Final Four.
From thereon, until the 8:00 p.m. championship at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center, every thought and deed will be trained on defeating Jordan and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the only team that ever beat the Philippines in the tournament.
“You really have to come in and locked in, fellas,” Cone told the team earlier. “Focus and lock in together on this one. I thought with Iran, we could play our game and it would be okay. And with China, I thought we could basically play our game and it would be okay. But now we gotta do something special against Jordan.”
Cone was asked how Gilas’ final practice turned out.
“We’re a little bit worn out, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “And I’m asking an awful lot from the guys. I kept asking them every game: ‘We gotta dig deep! You gotta dig deep!’ They’re scraping the barrel at this point, trying to get something extra. And you kinda see it in practice.”
After initially considering cancelling practice “to conserve energy for everybody,” Cone eventually went ahead with it.
“I debated not holding it, but we needed to make adjustments to the way we played last time. So we really need this to try and see what we could get out of practice today. We’ll see.”
Are these adjustments major?
“We got beat by 25 points, so, yeah, they gotta be pretty major,” Cone said. “We’re not gonna go out and kinda keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. That’s the definition of insane.
“We’re gonna go out there and change things up. I think we’re better at some of the things we’re doing already, that we weren’t when we played them last time, so we’ll see.”
The Nationals’ desire [to win the gold] won’t be wanting, assured Cone, but what’s left in the tank could be something else.
“I think it’s all gonna come down to energy,” he said. “The desire is there, they know how important the moment is. But whether they just have the energy…
“The road we’ve taken [to get to the final] is a lot, lot harder than the road Jordan has taken. So we’ll see if we can pull out 40 minutes. That’s all we’re gonna try to do, pull out a good 40 minutes. We’re not gonna lack desire. It’s just whether we can create the energy that’s gonna back up that desire.”
Aside from Hollis-Jefferson, who had 24 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds and 2 steals on September 30 when Jordan pulled away from a 52-all game en route to an 87-62 victory, Gilas will have to be mindful of the Jordanian backcourt, Fadi Ibrahim (17 pts) and Sami Bzai (12), both with three 3-pointers each, and frontliners John Bohannon (10 pts, 9 rebs) and Ahmad Al Dwairi (10 pts, 8 rebs).
Justin Brownlee, Gilas’ savior in the knockout games with Iran and China, had 24 points against Jordan that day, and Scottie Thompson had 11. But no Philippine player had more than eight points after that, and overall the Nationals shot just 33 percent from the field (24 of 72), missing 20 of their 24 three-point attempts.
Jordan shot 52 percent total (32 of 61).