Targets on their back: Batang Gilas escapes Indonesia, improves to 2-0

Batang Gilas U16 - May 2017

Batang Gilas 96 – Indonesia 73

At first glance, seeing a team win by 23 points should be an impressive feat. But we have to realize that in everything, context matters.

Batang Gilas won by 23 points in their second game in the SEABA 2017 tournament, beating Indonesia 96-73. The thing is, we’re used to seeing the Philippine team blowing out their opponents in the Southeast Asian region by larger margins. 23 points is a big margin, yes, but compared to their usual output, what they did this game was rather pedestrian. It’s also important to note that Batang Gilas was up against an Indonesia team that doesn’t have their level of talent and physical tools.

The Batang Gilas team that came out against Indonesia didn’t look anywhere close to the team which blew out Singapore by 66 points the previous night. So what happened to Batang Gilas?

It’s cliché and simple, but it makes total sense. Batang Gilas has targets on their back.

Entering the tournament, Batang Gilas was already heavily favored by many to sweep the competition with ease. But going 4-0 isn’t enough. It had to be a sweep filled with massacres. This game against Indonesia was far from a massacre. It looked more like a Batang Gilas team that leaned too much on its talent to defeat their opponents.

Indonesia looked very prepared against Batang Gilas, realizing that if there was one thing they could expose with regards to the physical tools of the host team, it had to be their guards’ lack of bulk.

This was first evident when Indonesia opened up the game with an incredibly aggressive press. Eventually though, Coach Mike Oliver and his wards were able to adjust to what Indonesia was throwing at them, and they were finally able to a relatively huge lead in the first quarter.

That didn’t faze Indonesia though, as they continued to press Gilas, forcing them to commit a whopping 26 turnovers for the entire game. At the same time, the guards of Indonesia aggressively attacked the defense of the Gilas perimeter, epitomizing the “shoot your shot” ethos. They attempted a whopping 28 three’s, making seven of them. 25 percent is a bad number, but they made SEVEN triples. SHOOT YOUR SHOT.

Indonesia played like this was a do-or-die game for them, while Batang Gilas looked like they were just going through the motions. The amount of heart which the Indonesians showed was evident in how they hustled for every loose ball, and how they attacked the Gilas defense despite a bunch of 6’7” plus monsters roaming the lanes.

Batang Gilas was able to win, sure, but this wasn’t a victory where Coach Mike Oliver could be proud of the fight which his wards put up. This was an ugly win, but it was also a win filled with lessons, and a wake-up call for their boys.

This SEABA tournament isn’t going to be a cakewalk. If they want to truly show their might against their foes, they have to show that they want that to happen. Mixed with correct execution of plays, their talent, and the effort needed to maximize all of these, the domination which fans expect from this Batang Gilas team should be well within reach.

Key Notes

– If there’s someone Coach Mike can be happy with regards to showing effort, it has to be Mac Guadana. He put up a triple-double (19-10-11) along with four steals, but most importantly, he showed a ton of heart against Indonesia.

– Raven Cortez is a player to watch out for. He has great physical tools, touch and athleticism fit to play any of the three front court positions. The DLSZ product is just Grade 9, so there’s plenty of time for him to improve his skill set.

– As exciting as the potential of Kai Sotto has been, he still has to work on his strength. The Indonesian players used their heft very well against Sotto, giving him a difficult time scoring around the basket. Sotto was “just” 4-9 in the field.

– Coach Mike Oliver has mentioned the possibility of parading smaller line-ups given the lack of perimeter coverage that they had against Indonesia. Kai Sotto/Raven Cortez/Geo Chiu along with four shooters? That sounds really exciting.

Photo by Andrew Teh / SBP