Gilas Pilipinas Tune-up Games Preview: Philippines vs Congo

Enzo Flojo on Aug 09, 2019 10:51 AM
Gilas Pilipinas Tune-up Games Preview: Philippines vs Congo
Andray Blatche and the rest of Gilas Pilipinas go for a repeat against 2019 AfroCan champion Congo. The winner will face either Ivory Coast or hosts Spain in the Final of this pocket tournament in Guadalajara (Photo courtesy of SBP).

The Philippine national team tipped off their tune-up games against Congo a few days ago, prevailing, 102-80, in a closed door affair, but the rematch later at 1:30 AM Manila time may be quite different.

The Congolese, who won the 2019 FIBA AfroCan tournament earlier this year, are expected to come out stronger in their second meeting with the Philippines, the winner of which goes on to face either Ivory Coast or hosts Spain in the Final of this pocket tournament in Guadalajara.

In the 2019 AfroCan championship, Congo bested Kenya in the titular game, 82-61, after beating Angola in the semifinals, 84-78. 

Leading the way for the Congolese was 6'8" big man Evariste Shonganya Tolembo, who is sure to have an interesting match-up against Andray Blatche and Japeth Aguilar later. Both Blatche and Aguilar lit up Congo a few days ago, combining for 47 points in the rout. 

Tolembo will probably want to bounce back strong, and he is definitely capable. The 28-year-old who plies his trade for Jämtland Basket in the Basketligan Swedish top division averaged 12.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks per game for Congo in the African Qualifiers, where they were eliminated after the first three windows. 

Helping him out will be fellow frontliner Rolly Fula Nganga and top guard Maxi Munanga Shamba.

Nganga is a 6'7" banger who was Congo's second most efficient player at the 2019 AfroCan, and his match-up at the wings against Gabe Norwood, CJ Perez, and Matthew Wright will be exciting. If Norwood isn't cleared to play, Nganga can potentially have his way at the perimeter against out undersized wingmen.

As for Shamba, the 6'3" playmaker is a streaky shooter who has great court vision. He had a nice matchup with Mark Barroca in their first encounter, and he surely wants to bounce back in a big way today against the Filipinos.  

Barring any more injuries, the Filipinos have a significant edge over Congo in terms of size and depth. The Pinoys have been shooting well of late, and if that continues, this could be over early; otherwise, Congo has the talent to keep in step with Gilas and be in a position for an upset late in the game. 

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