JAKARTA – Familiarity is something that the Filipino B.League imports will try to bank on as the Philippines is set to take on Japan for one of the coveted quarterfinal spots in the FIBA Asia Cup 2022 on Tuesday.
Gilas and the Akatsuki Five are bound for a collision course in a clash of fan favorites after losing their respective assignments on the final day of the group stages on Sunday at the Istora Senayan here.
Japan first lost to still-perfect Iran by way of an 88-76 decision in a wasted opportunity to sweep their way into the quarters outright, while the Philippines bowed to a youth-laden New Zealand through a 92-75 result.
“Well, we’ll use whatever advantage that the three of us have. That’s the individual knowledge of the players,” said Ravena.
Tuesday will be a reunion of sorts as Kiefer, Thirdy, and Ray Parks Jr. are going to meet some of the faces they’ve played alongside with and against since taking their act to the top-flight Japanese cage league.
Parks is teammates with Tenketsu Harimoto and Yutaroh Suda in Nagoya. The elder Ravena, meanwhile, will soon share the court with Kai Toews in Shiga.
The trio have also faced the likes of Yuki Togashi (Chiba), Takuma Sato (Chiba), Yudai NIshida (Mikawa), Yuki Kawamura (Yokohama), Soichiro Inoue (Shibuya), and Hirotaka Yoshii (Tokyo).
“As you know, me, Ray, and my brother, have been playing there. We kinda have a little bit of an idea of how they play — most of the players that are on the team,” offered the San-en NeoPhoenix import.
Still, it isn’t lost on them that familiarity alone won’t be enough. There remain other factors to take a deeper look at for Kiefer, including Japan’s style of play that allowed it to start the tournament 2-0 in convincing fashion.
One of their victories was a 61-point mauling of Syria, which saw them drill 27 three-pointers — the most in the Asia Cup in the last 15 years.
“Knowing how they play, a lot of motion offense, pass cut, flare screens, reads, backdoors, and kickouts, it’s a matter of containing our man individually. That’s the most important thing. Ganun talaga sila maglaro,” he offered.
“Every time there’s a breakdown, instinctively, the team has to help one another. And that’s how they make their open threes. They’re very unselfish, they’re good at moving the ball fast and quick, and finding the open man.
“And, that’s how they made 27 threes against Syria,” he added. “Now, we have to stop that and make it tough for them to make shots.
Then of course, there’s also the threat imposed by NBA pro Yuta Watanabe, FE Nagoya’s naturalized player Luke Evans, and University of Nebraska-Lincoln standout Keisei Tominaga that Gilas is wary of.
“Watanabe and Tominaga are new guys in the team so we have to base it on their games here in the FIBA Asia Cup. But we all know how Watanabe plays. And we all know Tominaga is a cannon,” Ravena said.
It is win-or-go-home for the Nationals on Tuesday and for Parks, it’s on him and the other vets to keep the young ones locked in.
“All we can do right now is try to lead by example,” said the 29-year-old guard. “And just take advantage of the opportunities talaga na na ipe-present sa amin kasi Japan is a talented team.
“Magaling din talaga sila.”
Highlights of the games will also be on SMART Sports.