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Gilas Pilipinas face souped-up Cambodian team in SEA Games


Games Today(Morodok Techo Elephant Hall 2)3 p.m. (4 p.m. Manila time) — Singapore vs. Philippines (women)5 p.m. (6 p.m. Manila time) — Philippines vs. Cambodia (men)

PHNOM PENH — Gilas Pilipinas need its good old “puso” early in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games redemption tour.

After breezing past Malaysia, the Nationals face a souped-up Cambodian team built on naturalized players and shielded from the off-court distractions of transport and practice venues worries in a Group A showdown of opening-day winners.

Coach Chot Reyes and his troops take the challenge at 5 p.m. in front of an expected hostile home crowd at the Elephant Hall 2 of the Morodok Techo Stadium (6 p.m. in Manila).

“They are a tough team. You saw the three guys in the 3×3. They have another three. They have like six naturalized players. They are going to be a handful,” said Mr. Reyes, who was at the sidelines when Sayeed Pridgett, Brandon Peterson, and Darrin Dorsey led Cambodia to a 20-15 win over Gilas’ all-Filipino half-court crew in the men’s 3×3 finals.

Mr. Reyes said he will rely on the adaptability of the Justin Brownlee-led Pinoy dribblers to overcome this new and unfamiliar threat to their regain-the-lost-gold mission.

“We have to be able to adjust and pivot during the game. We have very little knowledge about their games as a team. We have some information as individuals, but as a team, very little,” he said.

“It’s really a matter of how we can adapt. Our adaptability is going to be tested,” he added.

The matchup serves as a battle for leadership in the group.

Gilas clobbered Malaysia Tuesday, 94-49, while Cambodia routed Singapore 85-60 Wednesday.

The Filipinos are dealing not only with an import-powered opposition but also unfavorable conditions. Right before firing off its campaign, Gilas had to scout and book an indoor training gym as the organizers assigned outdoor basketball courts under the blazing sun as practice hubs.

The taraflex flooring in the game venue also presents a big concern for the team.

“I really can’t understand why the organizers allowed this situation to happen. But that’s the situation we’re dealt with and we have to accept and embrace it,” said Mr. Reyes.

Gilas women, which was slated to play the Cambodians in its opening assignment last night, hits the court against Singapore at 3 p.m. (4 p.m. Manila time). — Olmin Leyba

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