Batang Gilas 113 – Thailand 76
For most of the tournament, Kai Sotto has played with a relaxed demeanor, barely feeling any pressure with regards to the competition. It was hard to blame him. Gilas is a team that is far more talented, and physically blessed compared to their counterparts.
Coach Mike Oliver was then prompted to tell Kai before their game against Thailand to be a bit more aggressive against their opponents. To borrow Coach Gregg Popovich’s infamous line, it was Coach Mike Oliver telling Kai to give him some nasty against arguably their biggest competition in the SEABA region.
Instead of just Kai however, the entire team received the message loud and clear.
After a sub-par performance against Indonesia two days ago, Batang Gilas pounded Thailand to come out with a 3-0 record after four days of action in the SEABA U16 tournament.
Ironically, Kai, who was the main recipient of this plea from Coach Mike, put up a less than stellar performance, despite tallying six points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. He missed a total of seven shots, sometimes forcing the issue against a Thai defense that was clearly focused on shutting the wunderkind down.
Thankfully, the rest of the team was able to step up amidst the struggles of their most valuable player. It started with their captain Forthsky Padrigao, who gave Thailand all they could handle on the perimeter with his pesky defense. He accumulated a calm 13 points and eight assists, but what was truly eye-popping was how he was able account for eight of the 17 steals of Batang Gilas.
Beneficiaries of the game of their captain were Raf Go and RC Calimag, who both scored 20 points apiece to lead the Batang Gilas. They weren’t just getting baskets off the multiple fastbreak opportunities which their captain created, the two players also positioned themselves well in half-court sets. Calimag also deserves props for shutting down Thailand’s Thai-American, forcing him into difficult shots and frustrating him off the ball.
The rest of the team was just as stellar, even though the production that they put up in the box score won’t exactly blow your pants off. What was truly impressive was the consistent aggressiveness that they showed for the entirety of the game. Batang Gilas kept up their pressure even though they led by a huge margin in the latter part of the game. Lacking this was what killed them against Indonesia in their previous game, and Batang Gilas was determined not to let this repeat.
It’s highly likely that Batang Gilas will cruise to an easy victory tomorrow against Malaysia. Their blend of talent, size and experience will simply be too much to handle for the Malays. But for Coach Mike Oliver, what will truly matter is whether or not his team comes out with an edge. When they come out with some nasty, Batang Gilas looks like a completely different squad. From a team that looks underwhelming, they look like a group of players that could challenge for a gold medal in the FIBA Asia U16 Championship later this year.
– After getting beat on offensive boards in their game previously against Indonesia, Batang Gilas demolished Thailand in that department, coming up with 30 versus Thailand’s 17.
– Kai nearly had the entire Araneta Coliseum shouting “UNICORN!” as he went coast-to-coast en route to a lay-up…. Except that Bismarck Lina was called for an offensive foul trying to set a screen as Sotto approached the rim.
– Geo Chiu had his best game in a Batang Gilas jersey, putting up 10 points and eight rebounds in just 12 minutes of action. This is a great building block for his development, as he looked very confident while his teammates tried to set him up multiple times.
– Other than their aggressiveness, Batang Gilas’ ability to hit the long ball is key for them. Their aggressiveness led them to attempting 28 three-pointers, and managed to make 11 of them. Not bad.
Photo by Andrew Teh / SBP