Batang Gilas 83 – Malaysia 62
It wasn’t looking too good for Batang Gilas after the end of the first half. They were up by just seven points against Malaysia, the first time that a team has managed to stick around that long with Gilas in the tournament. This wasn’t like the game against Indonesia where Batang Gilas just forgot to turn on the switch, and won by “just” 23 points. Gilas was putting in the effort, but that effort wasn’t translating into a big lead. Whatever line-ups they were putting out kept getting burned time and time again.
Since Batang Gilas is a big team, they naturally used a big line-up. The problem with putting out a bigger line-up is it doesn’t help the spacing of Batang Gilas, clogging the lane a lot since the offense runs through its guards while Kai Sotto and Bismarck Lina stay in the paint. Defensively, they had rim protection, but since their bigs aren’t developed physically enough to defend all the way to the three-point line, Malaysia took advantage of this by shooting a lot of three’s. They made six of their 11 three-pointers in the first half.
So Coach Mike Oliver experimented late in the first half and used a smaller line-up which virtually had no centers. Their spacing and perimeter defense are fine, all good now right? That wasn’t the case, as Malaysia exposed their lack of rim protection and continuously attacked the paint to get easy baskets.
Coach Mike couldn’t seem to find a solution. Running things around his guards while using his bigs as decoys wasn’t working. Going small didn’t work either, sacrificing rim protection for better spacing. Was Batang Gilas about to win this game by just five points or less?
After halftime, Coach Oliver found a solution that would frustrate small-ball enthusiasts. He stuck to his big line-up, but reminded his guards that they have a 6’11” freak of nature down low whom they can use to get easy baskets.
That’s exactly what Batang Gilas did to pull away against Malaysia. In Philippine basketball, having a big man is a blessing for any team. The logical thing to do is feed him the ball in the low post every time, since there’s no chance anyone will be able to stop him. Forthsky Padrigao and crew fed Kai Sotto the ball, and that was game. A game predicted to go down the wire by five points or less turned into a classic 21-point beatdown by Batang Gilas.
That’s not to say that it was just Kai who did work in this game. He was the one who started it, and the rest followed for Batang Gilas. Terrence Fortea was brilliant all throughout, scoring 15 points on a cool 6-of-10 shooting clip from the field. RC Calimag was solid as well, ending a great tournament for him by scoring 15 points, along with five rebounds.
With a gold medal in their pockets, Batang Gilas now gears up for the FIBA Asia U16 tournament. There are a ton of kinks to be fixed, especially with how their guards utilize their bigs in the pick and roll. The competition is set to be tougher as well, and the height which Batang Gilas used against SEABA competition will be tested against the likes of China and India. Those teams will be tough, but after their performance against a determined Malaysia side, Batang Gilas knows that they can stick to the basics if all else fails.
– Kai Sotto ended his SEABA run by putting up 15 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks. That’s an impressive statline, but he did miss a bunch of gimmes down low (including a dunk) and six free throws. Saying that there’s so much more to work on for Kai Sotto is a scary thought for anyone who’s going to go up against him in the future.
– Forthsky Padrigao had his worst scoring game in the tournament against Malaysia with just five points, but he still managed to impact the game by putting up 11 rebounds, six assists and two steals. It’s that kind of all-around brilliance that makes Padrigao such a special player.
– If there’s a department which Coach Mike Oliver and staff ought to look into improving for FIBA Asia, it should be the team’s free throw shooting. They missed 11 free throws against Malaysia, eight of those misses coming in the first half of action.
– This Batang Gilas team is clearly the most raw in recent memory, but it also has the most potential. There’s a lot of line-up combinations which haven’t been maximized here yet, and play calls for certain players that haven’t been used. Coach Mike is going to have a lot of fun experimenting with his team ahead of FIBA Asia.