(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
3 p.m. – Myanmar vs Singapore
5 p.m. – Malaysia vs Vietnam
7 p.m. – Philippines vs Thailand
Troy Rosario is taking solace in being surrounded by a talented squad this time as Gilas Pilipinas shoots for a fourth straight victory when it plays Thailand tonight in the SEABA Championship at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Rosario and teammates RR Pogoy and Jio Jalalon endured threats against the Thais in the country’s last two stints filled with amateurs, nearly losing a semifinal match in the 2015 Singapore Southeast Asian Games before surviving a nightmarish exhibition of long-range shooting to pull off a win in the elimis of last year’s SEABA Cup in Bangkok.
Both times saw the Philippines emerging as champions. This time, with naturalized player Andray Blatche and top PBA stars namely June Mar Fajardo, Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo and Calvin Abueva leading the way, Rosario is confident that it can continue its winning ways against the Thais in the 7 p.m. contest, this time in convincing fashion.
Rosario downplayed the faceoff as a showcase to break the myth that the Thais are closing the gap, keeping the same rhetoric of trying to improve its play ahead of big competitions such as the FIBA Asia Cup, a spot given to the SEABA winner, and the home-and-away qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup.
“Wala naman tayong dapat i-prove sa kanila, kailangan lang talaga laruin kung anu yung Gilas. Kailangan lang talaga natin ipakita na tayo yung hardworking team kasi dun pa lang panalo na tayo e,” Rosario said after Sunday’s 106-51 rout of Malaysia.
Gilas expectedly is showing why it is the class of the six region. Adding to its 147-40 demolition of Myanmar and 113-66 defeat of Singapore, the Nationals won their games by an average margin of 69.7 points.
Coach Chot Reyes, whose team took a dayoff yesterday, has virtually used the tournament as tune-up matches for the aforementioned big games, balancing minutes while allowing his players to flaunt their high-level skills.
Thailand, which still has the same players from last year’s SEABA Cup, carries a 3-1 record after crushing Myanmar, 102-35.