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Batang Gilas eyes upset vs Croatia

By Jerome Lagunzad

Game Today
(Newell’s Old Boys Stadium)
4:30 a.m. – Croatia
vs Batang Gilas

Batang Gilas battles European powerhouse Croatia today as the Nationals open their ambitious campaign in the FIBA Under-17 Basketball World Cup at the Newell’s Old Boys Stadium in Rosario, Argentina.

Ranked 31st in the world, the Nationals are relishing their billing as the perceived underdogs as they look to pull off an early surprise in their 4:30 a.m. showdown with the favored Croatians, rated eighth in the world and who finished fourth overall in the European Under-16 championships.

“They might be taller and stronger than us but I like our chances against the Croatians,” said Batang Gilas coach Mike Oliver in an online chat with Tempo-Bulletin on the eve of the opener in a very stacked Group D which also includes reigning European titlist France and host Argentina.

“They are not a pressing team but they are very disciplined in running their halfcourt sets. Hopefully, we can disrupt them by playing good defense and make it harder for them to have good ball movement and ball screens action.”

Once the lead assistant of former Batang Gilas coach Jamike Jarin during the team’s 15th place showing in the Dubai, United Arab Emirates edition back in 2014, Oliver is optimistic that the latest batch of the young Nationals can do better after having a longer period of preparations and better pieces this time around.

Towering Ateneo center, 7-foot-1 Kai Zachary Sotto, adjudged as the Best Center in the FIBA-Asia Under-16 tilt, will join hands with 6-foot-7 big man Carl Tamayo of National University and De La Salle Zobel’s 6-foot-7 center Raven Cortez in manning the paint.
Sotto’s fellow Blue Eaglet, 6-foot-8 Geo Chiu and 6-foot-5 Yukien Andrada of San Beda-Taytay have also been named to the “Final 12” which could be considered as the tallest Batang Gilas unit ever formed.

Also expected to make some heavy damage is the Nationals’ loaded backcourt, composed of Bullpups guards Terrence Fortea and Gerry Abadiano, Ateneo’s Forthsky Padrigao, and La Salle-Greenhills gunner RC Calimag.

“It’s a combination of height and speed with this lineup. We can go big or small, depending on the situation” said Oliver, who will have Lyceum’s Mac Guadaña, La Salle-Zobel’s Migs Pascual and Red Cub standout Joshua Lazaro at the wings.