Gilas, China to clash anew in FIBA Asia Cup

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The Philippine men’s basketball team will rekindle its rivalry with Asian powerhouse China after both nations were drawn together for the 2017 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia Cup on Tuesday in Beirut, Lebanon.

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The Filipinos and the Chinese were bracketed in Group B along with Qatar and Iraq.

Iran, Jordan, India and Syria were bunched in Group A while host Lebanon joins South Korea, New Zealand, and Kazakhstan in Group C.

Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes proudly hoists the trophy after his wards won the SEABA Men’s Championship at the Araneta Coliseum. PHOTO BY RUSSELL PALMA

Oceania powerhouse Australia led Group D along with Chinese Taipei, Japan and Hong Kong.

China, South Korea, Chinese Taipei and Japan have yet to secure their spots in the FIBA Asia Cup as the East Asia Basketball Association qualifying tournament will kick off on Friday.

Kazakhstan also has yet to clinch its spot in the Central Asia qualification.

Two years ago, Philippines and China met in the finals of the FIBA Asia Championship in Changsa, China. The hosts won the gold-medal game, 78-67, to clinch the lone Asian berth for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes has yet to name his squad for the Asia Cup as players’ availability posed a big problem for the national mentor as the 13-day tournament, slated August 8 to 20 in Beirut, will be in conflict with the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia set on August 19 to 31.

Reyes, in his previous interviews, said he would form separate teams for the Asia Cup and the SEA Games, as it will also depend on the agreement between the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and the Philippine Basketball Association.

But expect Reyes to put weight on the Asia Cup as this will serve as the PH 5’s dry run for the 2019 FIBA World Cup qualifying tournaments.

The Philippines is drawn with Australia, Chinese Taipei and Japan in the World Cup qualifiers.

In the Asia Cup, the top finisher in each group after the preliminary round will advance directly to the quarterfinals while the second and third teams will go to the final phase of qualification for the quarters.

The fourth team in each group will bomb out of the tournament.

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