New ground: Batang Gilas dominates Singapore, starts SEABA tourney with a bang

Batang Gilas U16 - May 2017

Batang Gilas 108 – Singapore 42

Batang Gilas has spent most of its summer getting bullied.

No, their coaches weren’t giving them wedgies (or have they?) nor were they being teased on social media. They’ve been getting beat up on the basketball court, losing to older, stronger teams in various preseason tournaments that they joined as part of their training. The frustration of losing reached its peak when the youth team lost by a whopping 51 points against the De La Salle Green Archers, where Ben Mbala and Ricci Rivero literally dunked on Kai Sotto and crew, leading to the 6’11” wunderkind to let out a loud groan during one of Batang Gilas’ possessions.

Batang Gilas looked like a 10-year-old kid trying to fit in with his dad’s office basketball group, except the officemates of this kid’s dad didn’t take it easy and brought out their entire arsenal of moves in every game that they played.

The losing was starting to get to the heads of the young guns. This was the challenge for Coach Mike Oliver and staff – to keep their boys confident despite the losses, and to continue to instill the discipline needed to follow the system that they have in place. Like a dad telling his 10-year-old to just calm down, Batang Gilas just nodded with a sigh while walking away.

That’s why when Batang Gilas started their game with a bang against Singapore, you couldn’t help but notice the grins on their faces. It was a mix of joy and that feeling of “How the hell is this happening?” This was new for Batang Gilas. For most of their time together, they’ve gotten blown out of the water, their youth in fully display against the stronger collegiate teams. Now, THEY were the ones doing the bullying, as they gave Singapore the beating of a lifetime in their first game in the 2017 SEABA U16 Championship.

Suddenly, it occurred to these Batang Gilas players: This wasn’t their dad’s office basketball group anymore. They were up against kids their age, and suddenly the game which had been giving them such a tough time for the past month or so, felt easy now. Batang Gilas successfully executed their press on multiple occasions, and the immense size and length that they had was felt, given the multiple number of blocks that they had in the game.
Forthsky Padrigao and Terrence Fortea no longer looked like they were forcing the issue against the defense. Instead, they were playing with ease, with both hitting shots from downtown left and right. And of course, there was Kai Sotto, who no longer had to put up with the likes of Ben Mbala. This time around, he showed off some crazy unicorn level stuff, like a pump fake from the three-point line, then driving to his weak side and finishing with a floater from his off-hand for an easy and one.

This was new ground for Batang Gilas. After all the struggles, here they were, dominating. Other than just serving as the qualifier for the U16 FIBA Asia Cup, this SEABA tourney also serves as a confidence booster for Batang Gilas. This is where they realize that they can be champions, by applying what they had learned from the school of hard knocks and bad losses.

No mistake about it though, there’s still a ton to work on for Batang Gilas. Their offense is still not as crisp as it can be, as they still have difficulty in setting up their bigs for easy baskets, be it off a pick and roll or a high-low play. It’s all part of the process which Batang Gilas has to go through. That’s the challenge now: To be able to continue working on their mastery at the SEABA level, en route to the tougher competition that they’re set to face in the FIBA Asia Cup.

Notes

– Forthsky Padrigao showcased just how good of a point guard he is, scoring 14 points, dishing out six assists and coming up with four steals. That kind of all-around production is exactly what Batang Gilas needs from Padrigao in the long run.

– Kai Sotto’s stats were alright (17 points, five rebounds and three blocks), but it was the eye test which really impressed a number of fans. He moved extremely well defensively, and used his height to score down low.

– Geo Chiu needs to work on his post offense, as he still has trouble making his move once he gets the ball down low. That’s the point of this tourney anyway: to get raw pieces like Chiu to develop a bit faster.
Batang Gilas shot a number of three’s from way beyond the arc. If they’re able to make those at a high rate, that bodes very well for their spacing given the amount of size they have down low.

Photo by Andrew Teh / SBP

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