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It’s not ‘mission impossible, they must trust the system’

GAME TODAY: (Eventfinda Stadium, Auckland) 7:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m. Manila time) Philippines vs. New Zealand

WHAT it lacks in manpower, size and experience, Gilas Pilipinas intends to make up for with heart, grit and determination as it battles undefeated New Zealand on Thursday in the third window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in Auckland.

Coach Nenad Vučinić said the 11-man team of mostly young guns has embraced its Herculean task of going toe-to-toe with the Tall Blacks in the 7:30 p.m. road game at the Eventfinda Stadium (3:30 p.m. in Manila).

“We’ve got a young team here and it’s up to them to prove that they can play at that level and that they can play important games like this,” said Mr. Vučinić ahead of the Nationals’ (1-1) return match with Group A pacesetter New Zealand (3-0), which dealt them an 88-63 drubbing in the second window in Manila last February.

Without injured naturalized player Ange Kouame and PBA stalwarts, Mr. Vučinić is banking on Kiefer Ravena, Dwight Ramos, RJ Abarrientos, SJ Belangel, Geo Chiu Dave Ildefonso, Francis Lopez, Will Navarro, Carl Tamayo, Rhenz Abando and Kevin Quiambao to carry the fight against New Zealand as well as India (0-3) on Sunday over at the MOA Arena,

And Mr. Vučinić, a former Tall Blacks coach himself, is confident it’s not exactly “mission impossible” for his resolute crew.

“We can beat New Zealand. We can beat India. We just have to play very well, though, to beat them, especially against New Zealand,” he said.

“They cannot step back; they cannot go into this game not thinking that they can win. This is very important,” he added.

Just as vital, the Serbian mentor stressed, is “trusting the system.”

“They have to play within the system. We have got some talent that we can exploit but without the system, it’s impossible to do that. So they have to trust the system, they have to execute and then you know it comes down to the ability to adjust to what the opposition is doing because it’s a high-level opposition, a very good coaching staff.” — Olmin Leyba