After decades of battling for one of the top spots in FIBA Asia, the Philippines has finally grabbed sliver medal finish behind the tall and mighty Iran thus qualifying for next year’s World Basketball Championship to be held in Spain.
image source: https://www.facebook.com/smartgilaspilipinas2.0
Yes the tournament was already finished last week but the adrenalin rush and hangover by everyone here of that sweet victory in the semifinal match against rival South Korea was still there. FYI, South Korea has been the biggest thorn in the Philippines for the past tournaments, winning against them in a heartbreak fashion, be it the most important games or just for the placing. The win provided a sure spot at the 2014 World Basketball Championship, which will have the top 3 Asian countries qualified.
It’s a gallant stand by the team known as the Smart Gilas Pilipinas 2.0, composed of professional players in the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) with a naturalized player. They showed real teamwork and most importantly played with a BIG HEART, something that lacked with the previous all-pro selection teams.
With some players having some off nights, others stepped up, like a soldier backing up his comrade who’s down on the battlefield. The games on each rounds were hardly fought and won, and the team is likely destined to write their history. Aside from their great games played, it helped that China was having its worst season, losing in the early rounds to South Korea and Iran and Chinese Taipei in the quarterfinals. A sudden twist of faith because while they were having
lackluster performance, team Philippines got better and better.
And it seemed that everything’s going in favor of the Philippines because before the start of the tournament, Lebanon, which is considered among the top teams and could be a contender for the top spot on the next phase, was out. Another was when Qatar won against Chinese Taipei (the team who beat Gilas in the first round) by a close margin, that put everything in place. Gilas got the top spot because of higher quotient and avoided an early clash with the Persians.
Redemption has it for this team as they surpassed what the Gilas 1, composed mostly of standouts in the amateur ranks mixed with some pros, performed during the last tournament. Gilas 1 lost steam and only finished 4th place.
With the venue happening in the home turf, the hometown crowd filled the MOA Areana to cheer and back-up the players for some needed inspiration. When the team won in the semi-finals, it was like winning the crown already as the team achieved its ultimate goal – to qualify for the World Championships. As what I observed, if the team lost the semis, then the dream is over, there’s a big chance they would lose in the 3rd place game as history showed with the past teams that they always lose steam and with Douthit out, they would be in big trouble again against the Taiwanese.
The finals game could have gone either way, but with Marcus Douthit sitting out due to injury, the team lost a formidable big man who could defend against Iran’s center Hamed Haddadi, a legit NBA player, who was named MVP of the tournament.
Adding the celebration was point guard Jason “The Blur” William Castro’s inclusion in the All-Star Mythical Five.
On winning the silver medal and getting qualified, being big basketball fanatics by the people here have not gone to waste because in my opinion, what’s the point of making this game an almost national sports and everyone’s passion if you can’t even qualify for the World or Olympics? At least the guys showed that the team, despite not having a tall lineup, belongs to the elite class. Talent, teamwork and a lot of heart in the game have brought them back to the map.. Welcome Spain! See you there!
Smart Gilas Pilipinas 2.0 are
1. Marcus Douthit
2. Jimmy Alapag
3. Jayson Castro
4. Ranidel De Ocampo
5. Larry Fonacier
6. Jeff Chan
7. Gabe Norwood
8. LA Tenorio
9. Japeth Aguilar
10. Gary David
11. Marc Pingris
12. June Mar Fajardo
Reserve player – Beau Belga
Coach – Chot Reyes
Assistant Coaches: Norman Black, Jong Uichico, Josh Reyes
Watch the highlights of the semifinal grudge match between team Philippines and South Korea.