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Gilas needs strong start vs semis rival – Uichico

KUALA LUMPUR – Jong Uichico was not in his usual spot in the mess hall Thursday, eve of their semifinal match with Singapore in the 29th Southeast Asian Games.

Uichico said he slept at 4 a.m. after meeting the coaching staff at 1 a.m. while viewing a video of Singapore’s latest games.

At this stage of the tournament, the worst thing that can happen is to look beyond Singapore, according to Uichico who was at the hotel lobby at 11 a.m.

“We’re taking Singapore seriously,” said the veteran coach who met the players in the viewing room before lunch.

That is if Singapore beats Vietnam. Both teams were still playing at presstime.

Uichico said the team’s slow start is a concern.

On Wednesday, the Nationals trailed in the early goings against Malaysia before stepping on the gas for a 98-66 victory.

Battling in the other semifinal are Thailand and Indonesia.

Uichico thought he did a good job shuffling his players.

Kobe Paras, the team’s youngest member at 19, was given his time on the court and actually led scoring against lowly Myanmar.

“That boy has a gift,” said Uichico. “He’s trying his best to play under the system.”

Uichico said he hopes that when Paras returns to the United States, he gets to play so he can be coached. “I hope he’ll be part of the team rotation,” he added.

Meanwhile, the women’s basketball team went down to Malaysia, 60-56, for its second loss in five matches.