Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas will head into the next round of the 2017 FIBA Asia Champions Cup as the third seed for Group A. It’s an unexpected position for the quickly-formed club team, as Chooks-to-Go had to overcome plenty of setbacks even before landing in China.
“It’s like I said, just getting to the quarterfinals of this tournament given the kind of team that we have is already an achievement,” said head coach Chot Reyes after Chooks-to-Go ended its Group Stage campaign with a 2-2 record.
The Manila-based club team entered the continental club meet with just 11 men after Congolese Rodrigue Ebondo saw his visa denied by the Chinese embassy. Moreover, the team had to settle for the country’s top amateur players, and PBA free agents and practice players to fill-up the roster due to time constraints.
Still, Chooks-to-Go was able to topple experienced club teams BC Astana and Mono Vampire to advance to the quarterfinals. The team could have sealed top seed in the group if they had defeated Iranian club team Petrochimi.
“Iran had five national team members today, Lebanon has five current and three former national team members, Kazakhstan also has another five and then they have two very good players. Talagang malakas yung caliber,” admitted the National Team tactician after Chooks’ 66-87 loss.
“We knew that coming in and we’re not making any excuses.
“Nakakapanghinayang lang na if we had a better break today, I thought that it would have been a better fight. We were able to defend them in the first half, there were some breaks in the calls that’s why they got the advantage,” furthered Reyes.
But there will be no time for regrets for the squad as they take on naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche and China Kashgar in the knockout stage.
But Reyes looks forward to facing Blatche, whom he handled during Gilas Pilipinas’ triumph in the SEABA Championship last May.
“That’ll be fun, that’ll be interesting.
“Obviously, they are a much, much better team with Andray with them. They have an already formidable team already. They have a great import, great shooters, they have the size to match-up with Zeke so it’s going to depend on Andray Blatche,” Reyes remarked about the match-up.
In order to stun the defending Chinese Basketball Association champions, Reyes hopes that Chooks-to-Go will replicate its hot-shooting against Mono last Sunday.
“We have to emulate our Mono Vampire game where three guys scored in the 20s and a fourth scorer. That’s the kind of distribution we need to have to beat teams here,” Reyes expressed, as Carl Cruz, Kiefer Ravena, and Isaiah Austin hit the 20-point mark during that game.
“We had a good shooting game the other day, we had a bad shooting game today, hopefully we bounce back with a good shooting game.”
Photo from FIBA.com