Kazakhstan coach cherishes confidence-boosting win over Gilas.
But definitely with a gait of someone who has accomplished something big. Why not? After all, his Kazakhstan men's national basketball team just pulled the rug from under the fancied Philippines, 92-88, in front of their home crowd of 12,000-plus people.
"Did I not tell you," he said in a-matter-of-a-fact manner. The night before the big Asian Qualifying match between the two countries, the very first question I asked of the Lithuanian head coach of the Snow Leopards is have they put the memory of the 96-59 blowout loss to the Philippines in the Asian Games behind them.
"It is in our minds," the coach admitted. "But we have revenge too in our minds.
" Kurilionokas took a few more steps and then said, "Remember I said that it is important how we start for the jump ball and how we shoot? It worked in our favor." Unlike the Asian Games match where his team wasn't able to get out of the gates and the game was beyond reach as early as the second period, his Snow Leopards hung tough all game long.
In a protracted war of attrition where there was some physicality (Marcio Lassiter was once more bloodied he also got hit during the away loss to Iran a few months back), both sides traded runs through 12 ties and 29 lead changes. The vociferous home crowd had cheered and egged on Gilas Pilipinas, but for the most part, there was a sense of nervousness in the air.
The Philippines had not put away the pesky Kazakhs. They had turned the tables on the Philippines.
They dunked with wild abandon, with Maxim Marchuk stuffing one right on Gilas' Japeth Aguilar, who is known to posterize many a foolish and unsuspecting individual. While the Philippines was concerned about their outside shooting, they also hurt the Filipinos with their speed.
A first. The coach admitted that he heard talk about another blowout loss.
It was, of course, possible, given the fact that aside from the Asian Games loss, the Kazakhs were also booted off the court in the most ignominious fashion during the 2013 Fiba Asia Championships on the very same floor, 88-58. "Yes, I heard people expected us to lose big again (on social media)," he revealed. While English isn't his primary language, Kurilionokas clearly measures his words.
He has done so since he began entertaining questions from the media. "People thought that we were making excuses (when he offered that his team did not have the proper legs or mindset after planning into Indonesia barely 12 hours before their match with the Philippines during the Asian Games).
"Now we got some rest and we were mentally prepared," he offered. The away win was massive.
For one, it puts a stop to the bleeding. The Kazakhs had lost four consecutive matches heading into the Manila game.
There was that shocking blowout loss to Iraq in Doha, 64-50. A crushing defeat to Iran, 88-56 in Tehran. Getting pummeled by Japan, 85-70, on their home court.
And a debilitating massacre at the hands of the rampaging Australians, 94-41, just last September. "We needed this," Kurilionokas said of the win against the Philippines that placed them a 4-5, a game behind Philippines and Japan who both tote a 5-4 slate.
Kazakhstan definitely needed this. They are flying on Saturday to Japan to face the streaking Japanese at Toyama.
The Japanese are currently the hottest team in Group B competition of the Asian Qualifiers, having won five straight matches. They are the only team in the competition to have defeat Australia and Iran.
"We will enjoy this win tonight," said Kurilionokas as he made his way out of the Mall of Asia Arena. "Tomorrow, we look into what we can do against Japan.
" I am sure he is hearing talk about another blowout loss. Kurilionokas smiled.
Not the smile of a conqueror, but a man who just led his team to an all-important win that helped regain their confidence.
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|Publication:||Philippines Star (Manila, Philippines)|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2018|
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