Team Philippines launch their first trip into Cayman playoff basketball against the defending champions Wolves.
In spite of the tough draw, the side is upbeat about their chances for success. Team captain Christian Ferrer states it is about sticking to the game plan.
“We have a chance as we beat them in our opening game,” Ferrer said. “We’re hoping we can repeat that kind of performance. Every team is beatable. It’s about doing the right things as a team.”
Both squads hit the court this Thursday 26 May at the Arts and Recreation Centre for game one of their semi-final series. The games are part of the 2011 national men’s basketball league put on by the Cayman Islands Basketball Association. Philippines come into the playoffs as the third seed after finishing the regular season at 7-5. Wolves meanwhile are second after sporting a 9-3 mark.
Ferrer, 30, was one of team Philippines best players this year. He led the league in assists with 6.8 dishes per contest and was seventh in scoring averaging 21 points per game. Ferrer states his team’s third place finish marks the first time the club is in the playoffs.
“This year marks the first time team Philippines have made the playoffs. It feels overwhelming because it’s a first for the Filipino team after five years in the league. We saw a lot of changes with Ding Briones and Marc Jocson leaving the island. We were mostly new guys from the Filipino league and we took things from there.
“How the regular season ended was hard. We had a lot of injuries as I sprained my ankle and John Paul Azul has a lingering sprained ankle. Chris Lucas has also been labouring with an old leg injury plus we had a lot of guys on vacation. For instance I was off-island in a match against Tarheels and we lost that game because we only had five players.
“Even though we’re third, playing the Wolves is a challenge. If we want to be crowned champions we might as well take on the current champs. If we beat them then we feel good about beating the next team in the final round.”
One of the biggest additions the side made this year was former Dominos Warriors player Chris Lucas, 25. The Cleveland, Ohio native emerged as the league’s top scorer (averaging 28.3 points per game), fifth-leading rebounder (12.3 boards per match) and fifth-best free-throw shooter (84.4 per cent). Lucas states he is looking forward to facing the Wolves.
“This team, I’ve been saying this all season, is one of the good teams to play with,” Lucas said. “They’re fun guys to be around and on the court they’re smart and they know the game. They’ve been missing size in the past and they needed athleticism. I’m just bringing them a bit of height.
“This is my third year playing in the league and last year I made the postseason with Dominos. The playoffs are my favourite time of year because guys leave it all on the floor and play their hearts out. My team will play every minute of every game in this series.
“We can’t walk in afraid of the team we’re facing. They can say what they want but the fact is we beat them once and they beat us once. We can go in and beat them. We have to play as physical as them and play as hard as them.”
Both Ferrer and Lucas maintain that though they are solid players, the supporting cast will need to play a big role in shutting down the Wolves’ stars.
“We’ve been preparing for the best this Thursday,” Ferrer said. “We know we will give them competition and hopefully we win. But the Wolves are a big team and the three players we are most concerned about are Dwight O’Garro, Andres Kirchman and Gary ‘Butcher’ McLaughlin. Dwight and Andres have the height advantage while Butcher can play any spot on the floor.
“We’re going in with an eight-man rotation. We’re hoping Azul can play as he hasn’t hit the court in two and a half weeks. We have Lucas as our top scorer but we’ll need him to rebound more. We practiced on Monday and we’ll be looking for Ugo Ezema to keep challenging shots inside. Also Neil Samson is a good shooter and we’ll need him to shoot well.”
“We need Azul in the line-up at the guard position,” Lucas said. “Eric Morata can have a big game for us. Christian Ferrer is a critical player as well. In fact he is one of the most popular Filipino players and he’s my favourite player to play with in Cayman. He’s a big reason why I decided to join this team. I’m really looking forward to Thursday night.”