2019 FIBA U19 World Cup Preview: Philippines vs New Zealand

Enzo Flojo on Jul 07, 2019 09:40 AM
2019 FIBA U19 World Cup Preview: Philippines vs New Zealand
Can Dave Ildefonso follow up his 21-point, 6-assist and 7-rebound stat-line against the Kiwis?

The Philippines finally had a breakthrough in the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup in Heraklion Greece, beating Asian rivals China, 86-72, to be assured of at least 14th place in the biennial competition. 

Their final game today will be against another team from the FIBA Asia zone -- New Zealand, which placed 2nd place overall in last year's 2018 FIBA U18 Asia Cup in Thailand and defeated Senegal last night, 87-71. 

It will be a tough final assignment for coach Sandy Arespcochaga's wards, who are coming in riding high with confidence after their convincing triumph over the Chinese. The Filipinos bucked the limited minutes of Kai Sotto in that encounter as the 7'2” prized center was saddled with foul trouble and could only register 5 points, 2 rebounds, a 1 block in 13 minutes of play. Answering the call were Dave Ildefonso, Carl Tamayo, James Spencer, and Rhayyan Amsali, all of whom scored in double-digits for the Philippines. 

Needless to say, it'll take another supreme team effort today if the Filipinos are to stave off what should be a very strong challenge from the Kiwis, who likewise put up a convincing win yesterday against the Senegalese. 

In that match, versatile guard Flynn Cameron stood out. The DePaul University Blue Demon has been inconsistent in Heraklion, but he had his best game yet against Senegal, scoring 19 points on top of 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 7 steals, and 2 blocks. 

Another Junior Tall Black to worry about is Euro-based Max Darling, who plies his trade for Croatia's KK Vrijednosnice Osijek. The 6'6” inside operator is one of the most athletic players in the entire field, and he has been on a tear in New Zealand's last two games, averaging 19.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per outing. Don't be surprised if he tries his hand at slowing Kai down in the paint. 

Speaking of Kai, he has stumbled out of the top 10 most efficient players in the tournament after last night's below par showing, and it would be great to see him bounce back in a big way here. 

The former Ateneo Blue Eaglet is among the youngest studs in Heraklion and will still be eligible for the next U19 World Cup should the Philippines qualify anew. He is currently averaging 12.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per game, but he will likely need even better numbers against New Zealand if Gilas Youth is to end its campaign on a bright note. 

He'll expect much help from the aforementioned Ildefonso and Tamayo, who really played with aplomb against China. Ildefonso was nearly unstoppable, shooting 7 out of 12 from the floor, including 4 triples en route to an impressive 21-point, 7-assist, 6-rebound stat-line. Tamayo, for his part, was splendid with 20 points and 6 rebounds while hitting 3 triples. If those two guys can puncture the hoops again and complement Kai's inside game, the Philippines has a fair chance of finishing 13th place overall.

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