By JONAS TERRADO
7:55 p.m. — Qatar vs Philippines
9:35 p.m. — Slovenia vs Philippines
Gilas Pilipinas hopes to hurdle the first phase of its quest to reach the quarterfinals when it takes on Qatar and fancied Slovenia in the start of the FIBA 3×3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Graz, Austria.
The Philippines kick things off against Qatar at 1:55 p.m. local time (7:55 p.m. Manila time) before looking to pull off an upset over world No. 4 Slovenia almost two hours later (9:35 p.m. Manila time).
Coach Ronnie Magsanoc and the five-man pool composed of Joshua Munzon, CJ Perez, Alvin Pasaol, Mo Tautuaa and Santi Santillan arrived in Graz after a lengthy flight that included a layover in Dubai.
Gilas needs to secure a top two finish in Group C in order to qualify for the quarterfinals where three slots for the Tokyo Olympics will be contested.
Also in Pool C are France and Dominican Republic which Gilas will face Friday, May 28.
The FIBA website lists Munzon, Perez, Pasaol and Tautuaa, a combined mixture of veteran 3×3 players and members of the winning 2019 Southeast Asian Games team, as the four players who will take part in the OQT with Santillan serving as an alternate.
Munzon is the country’s top 3×3 player and ranked 157th in the world, Pasaol is No. 256 while Perez and Tautuaa are making their debut in a major FIBA competition.
Qatar’s roster is composed of Abdulrahman Saad (No. 322), Nedim Muslic (No. 371), Babacar Dieng (No. 856) and Abdelrahman Yehia (No. 911).
But Slovenia will give Gilas plenty of obstacles, boasting players who are inside the top 50.
The Slovenian roster has 18th-ranked Simon Finzgar, No. 23 Gaspar Ovnik, No. 32 Anze Srebovt and No. 35 Adin Kavgic.