By JONAS TERRADO
(AUF Sports and Cultural Center)
2:30 p.m. – Japan vs China
6:30 p.m. – Philippines vs South Korea
Gilas Pilipinas finally resumes its campaign in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers Wednesday by taking on old rival South Korea at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center.
Coach Tab Baldwin’s roster composed of a mixture of collegiate standouts and non-PBA players look to formalize its entry in the continental competition in the game set at 6:30 p.m.
It will be the first of two meetings between the two countries in the third window which encountered numerous delays due to the fluidity of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Philippines, however, has not beaten South Korea in the last five meetings since the memorable semifinal win in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship at Mall of Asia Arena.
But the Filipino cagers also hold an own streak against South Korea, having won all six matches in the Philippines.
Also on the line are the unbeaten slates of both teams in Group A of the qualification tournament.
Gilas won its first three games with convincing routs of Indonesia in Jakarta last Feb. 2020 and Thailand twice in late-November in Bahrain.
South Korea beat Indonesia and Thailand in the first window but opted not to participate in the Bahrain window.
The game will mark the debut of Ateneo center Ange Kouame as Gilas’ naturalized player while Kai Sotto’s first game as a member of the senior national team.
Also making the 12-man lineup are Isaac Go, who was named team captain, Will Navarro, Dwight Ramos, Justine Baltazar, Javi Gomez de Liano, RJ Abarrientos, Mike Nieto, Jaydee Tungcab, Carl Tamayo and SJ Belangel.
Left off the roster for the South Korea game were Jordan Heading, LeBron Lopez and Geo Chiu.
South Korea is likewise fielding a young lineup anchored by naturalized player Ricardo Ratliffe, who played as an import for the Star Hotshots in the 2016 and 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
China and Japan kick off the Clark window in their Group B match at 2:30 p.m.