For Gilas, a clear path to the finals

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. I like that quote. Here are two more: “If you run after luck, you will spoil many pairs of shoes” and “Success is simply a matter of luck; just ask any failure.”

Are we lucky? Gi-swerte ta that, from the quarterfinals all the way to the championship, we are able to avoid the likes of Korea, Iran and China?

No and Yes. If we didn’t beat the giants of FIBA Asian basketball last Saturday, clobbering the seemingly-unbeateable Iranians by 14 points, we wouldn’t have reached the No. 1 spot.

That’s not luck. That’s Jason scoring 26, Andray blocking four shots, Terrence zigzagging his way past a maze of defenders. It turns out, that win was more than a W: It didn’t just qualify us to enter the knockout playoff stage, it allowed us to stay clear of hazards. It cleared the treacherous path for us to reach the finals.

We battle Lebanon tonight at 9:30. Everybody will watch! While we finished a high 4-1 in the preliminary round, Lebanon’s grade stood at 2-3.  And while we’re 31st-ranked in the world, the Lebanese linger just three ranks below at 34. Last week, they lost to two notable countries: against Korea, by 14 (85-71) and got schooled in Chinese dribbling by the hosts, 90-72.

On paper, this isn’t only a must-win for Gilas but a ballgame that we ought to win. We’re favored. At game’s end, we’re expected to high-five and beam toothful smiles.

Tomorrow, it’s either Qatar or Japan. Qatar is a small nation of only 2.2 million. In the preliminary round, they performed well to subdue Lebanon (105-100) and Korea, 69-63. Facing China, though, they got humiliated, 89-65. Since this is a crossover stage, it will be their first tournament meeting against Japan, an exciting game whose victor we will face in tomorrow’s semifinals.

The next three days will be one of Philippine basketball’s most important. It’s a new month; a new path to the Olympics.

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