Tale of the Tape: Can Team Pilipinas bounce back in closed door affair against Qatar?
Enzo Flojo on Sep 17, 2018 12:59 PM
Can the Philippines notch their fifth win in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifiers.The Asian Qualifiers have entered their second round, and the Philippines got off to a rocky start with a loss to Iran last Thursday. They play Gulf sub-zone champions Qatar tonight to, hopefully, notch their fifth win of the competition and strengthen their bid for a berth in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup that will be held in China.
Let's see how the national team measures up on paper.
Frontline: Advantage Qatar
Christian Standhardinger was dominant despite the Philippines' losing to Iran a few days ago. The 6'8" Filipino-German big man put up 30 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 steals, taking full advantage of the fact that the Iranians played most of the game without star slotman Hamed Haddadi. This time around, though, Coach Yeng Guiao has chosen to sit Standhardinger in favor of Stanley Pringle filling in the naturalized player spot of the squad.
Where will Team Pilipinas turn to for that kind of production then? Enter Japeth Aguilar. Now, let's level our expectations, Aguilar isn't going to put up a 30-12 line tonight. That's more than a long shot, but he can protect the rim better than Standhardinger, and he can grab double-figure rebounds on a good night, too. If his midrange game is on and he runs the floor well, we may even see Aguilar put up double-digit scoring.
Aside from him, it should be JP Erram really stepping up tonight. He played just 3 minutes against Iran, but his length and athleticism will be crucial against a veteran Qatari frontline led by Mohd Mohammed and Yehia Abdelhaleem. Between those two, Mohd and Yehia have a combined 11 years worth of experience playing at the senior level for Qatar, and that will be their main edge. Both Mohd and Yehia are wide-body bangers in the paint and have decent mid-to-long range shooting, while Bosnian-born 6'11 center Emir Mujkic is also one to watch. He was used sparingly in the 2018 Asian Games, averaging just 3 points and 1.3 rebounds per game, but his size could be a factor tonight against the smaller Team Pilipinas big men.
Wings: Advantage Philippines
Qatar's best wingman here will be Congo-born and naturalized Qatari Tanguy Ngombo, who was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks way back in 2011 but never played a lick of NBA ball. He can be as young as 29 years old or as old as 34 depending on which birth document you choose to believe, and he was deemed eligible to play as a local for Qatar in 2011 even after playing for the national team already a year prior. Despite all his controversies, though, the man can hoop. He averaged around 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists for Al Rayyan SC int he Qatar professional league this past season and put up 18.0 points per contest in the 2018 Asian Games.
Trying to hold him down will be North Carolina-born defensive specialist Gabe Norwood. The former George Mason University Patriot will need to bring his A-game to really put the clamps on Ngombo, but the 6'5" veteran international campaigner should be up to the task.
What really gives the Philippines the edge at the wings, though, is the much-awaited pairing of arguably the two best three-point shooters in the country right now -- Marcio Lassiter and Matthew Wright. The California-born Lassiter had a slow outing against Iran, hitting just 1-of-9 field goals, but he should have a much better time here at home against the Qataris. The Ontario-born Wright, meanwhile, is certainly itching to return to international play after getting involved in the infamous basketbrawl with Australia a couple of months ago. Wright has been shooting well in the Asian Qualifiers, making 44% of his threes, so Qatar would do well to make him a marked man later on.
Opposite these two will be Qatar's own sharpshooter Hassan Mohamed, also known as Mizo Amin. The Egypt-born Hassan is norming 1.6 triples per game and sinking 44.4% of his triples, so coach Yeng should make sure he is also shadowed well tonight.
Backcourt: Advantage Philippines
This is where Qatar is really missing a few key players, most notably 22-year-old Abdulrahman Saad, veteran Mansour El Hadary, and naturalized player Trey Johnson. Those are three of the team's top five scorers in the Asian Qualifiers, and missing their services means the Philippines will have a distinct advantage in the backcourt.
Stepping in for Qatar will be 21-year-old Khaled Abdelbaset and Senegal-born Momar Gueye. Both debuted for Qatar's senior side against Australia, combining for 10 points and 2 assists, and they will face a mighty challenge here against or very own Stanley Pringle, Alex Cabagnot, Paul Lee, and Scottie Thompson. Pringle should be the main scoring option and primary point of attack, while Lee and Cabagnot should hopefully find their range tonight. Thompson, meanwhile, is there for his boundless energy and hustle.
Unless Qatar's guards rain threes on the Philippines, our backcourt should have an overwhelming advantage and dictate the tempo throughout the game.
Coaching: Advantage Qatar
I will give the slight edge to coach Tim Lewis, who has tons of experience coaching international basketball and also once served as a consultant for Gilas Pilipinas. Lewis knows the Filipino style of play inside-out, and it shouldn't be surprising if he has a gameplan tailor-made to counter our tendencies.
Of course, that's not to say Coach Yeng won't be prepared. His experience in the Asian Games and the team's previous game against Iran have definitely helped coach Yeng and his stfaff craft their own schemes for this matchup, and our boys should be well-equipped to handle anything the Qataris throw our way.
Overall, even without our boisterous home crowd propping up the team's spirits, the Filipinos should still be significantly favored to prevail and net their fifth win of the Asian Qualifiers.