Mar 29, 2024

Gilas 3x3 opens Asia Cup bid against Aussies

THE Gilas Pilipinas men's 3x3 team kicks off its daunting campaign in the FIBA Asia Cup on Saturday, facing powerhouse squads Australia and Japan at the Singapore Sports Hub.

The TNT trio of Ping Exciminiano, Gryann Mendoza, and Chester Saldua along with hot-shooting Joseph Sedurifa of Meralco will first take on the three-time champion Aussies, followed by the third seeded Japanese in Pool C during the final day of the main draw.

Seeded sixth, Gilas proved it can compete with the best half-court teams in the world two years ago when it shocked top seed Mongolia, 21-20, in the quarterfinals behind the game-winner of Almond Vosotros.

The team, also comprised of Lervin Flores, Samboy De Leon, and Joseph Eriobu, lost to New Zealand in the semifinals, 21-13, and missed out on a podium finish when it went down against China, 20-18.

None among the members of that team are back in this year's Asia Cup edition, but coach Mau Belen is confident in Gilas' ability to pull off another stunner in the tournament.

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"We are gearing up for the toughest battle. We prepared the best way we know how and hoping that would be enough to compete in the highest level possible," she said.

Last year, Gilas failed to reach the knockout round after losing to Iran and Qatar, respectively.

Todd Blanchfield, the 6-foot-6 sniper, again leads Australia in its bid to regain the championship it lost to Mongolia a year ago.

The Aussies powered their way to the main draw with a three-game sweep of their assignments in Pool C during the qualifiers, whipping Tahiti, 21-5, Kyrgyzstan 21-6, and Kazakhstan, 21-7, respectively.

Meanwhile, veteran Tomoya Ochiai will be at the forefront of the Japanese's campaign in the annual three-a-side tournament.

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The 36-year-old member of the Japan 3x3 team was with the same unit that won the bronze during the 2018 edition of the Asia Cup held in Shenzhen, China.

The top two teams in each of the four groups will advance to the knockout round on Sunday. (RG)