MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippines is well on its way to an 18th gold medal in basketball in the Southeast Asian Games, but Gilas Pilipinas coach Tim Cone refuses to look past the home teams’s dangerous foe in the semifinals -- Indonesia.
A 136-67 mauling of Myanmar on Saturday night gave the Philippines a 3-0 sweep of Group A, pitting the hosts against Indonesia in the semifinals set on Monday at Mall of Asia Arena.
The Philippines clobbered Indonesia, 94-55, in the gold medal game two years ago in Kuala Lumpur, but Cone is quick to point out that the Filipinos’ upcoming opponent has gone through several changes since then.
The most important change, for Cone, is the appointment of Rajko Toroman as Indonesia's head coach. The former Gilas mentor has been calling the shots for Indonesia since June, and the visitors’ preparation for the SEA Games has included a long training camp in Serbia.
"We all know who the coach is over there. We all know him, and we know how great he's been with the original Gilas team, with the Mark Barroca, Marcio Lassiter team," Cone said of Toroman.
"He was really the, kind of the founder of the Gilas program. So, he's contributed a lot to where this program has gotten to right now.”
Indonesia's campaign in the SEA Games got off to a poor start, as they lost to Thailand 98-76. But they righted the ship with a 101-92 win over Malaysia and a 100-71 rout of Cambodia.
"They were supposed to bring a naturalized player, and apparently he couldn't come, and that I think put a cramp in their plans," Cone said.
Indonesia was linked to several possible naturalized players, including former PBA imports Denzel Bowles and Lester Prosper. Ultimately, however, neither made the trip back to Manila for the SEA Games.
Despite this, Cone said his squad cannot afford to take Indonesia lightly. He said that Toroman's teams always play with great discipline and superb shooting, and Cone expect Indonesia to be no different.
"(Rajko is) a good friend of mine, and it's always difficult to coach against your good friend, but he has something he has to do, and we have something we have to do," Cone said.
"We're gonna go out and show our wares out on Monday. We're not gonna hold anything back. We're gonna go after him, because we know and we respect him so much.”
Toroman is also well aware of the strengths of the Philippine team, and is familiar with several of the players in the Gilas side. Lassiter and Greg Slaughter, in particular, have played for the Serbian coach before.
"We know anything can happen against them," said Cone. "Certainly, we'll be the favored team, but we're used to that at this point so we'll go out and get 'em."
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