2014 FIBA World Cup basketball

Gilas Pilipinas’ Gallant Stand at 2014 FIBA World Cup

The 2014 FIBA World Cup is now happening in Spain and it’s in the first stage of the quarterfinal round with team U.S.A. and Spain heading on to become as the top two favorites to face-off in the finals with their unblemished records coming off in the elimination round. But one team has made a lot of buzz in the tournament and has gained admiration. That is the team Philippines.

After four decades (well it could have been just two as the country qualified to play but thanks to its politics, they withdrew, read story here), the Philippine basketball team has competed in the world stage. Finally. The long wait of getting to play at FIBA World Cup was over and they’ve shown that the team belong there. Dubbed as Gilas Pilipinas (version2.0), the team was one of three representatives of Asia (Iran, South Korea as the other two) that qualified to play in the tournament. They were bracketed in a tough group that consist of world-ranked #3 Argentina, Greece (ranked #5), Croatia (ranked #16), Puerto Rico (ranked #17) and Senegal (ranked #41). Before the tournament started, only Senegal was the only team that was seen capable of beating because of its lower ranking. But it seemed that this year saw a lot of upsets. Senegal finally winning 2 games and went on to qualify to the next round.

Although Gilas team failed to qualify for the next round, they definitely made the other countries’ heads turn and made a mark by
playing a different style of game, a brand Filipinos have showcased that’s very hard to scout according to the coaches they’ve faced. It was that unorthodox style (as what coach Chot Reyes said, it was the “Larong Kanto” or street play, a style commonly used by the locals when they play) that got other coach’s nerves, with Argentina coach Julio Lamas quoting after their game against Gilas as his “most uncomfortable game he had to coach in his life.”

Who would have thought that a team composed of a smaller lineup would play competitive basketball against the tall powerhouse teams, even almost beating the likes of Croatia, Argentina and Puerto Rico in very close games.

Everyone was thrilled to see them playing toe-to-toe with the taller Croatian team on their first game, almost winning an upset in the closing seconds of the 4th quarter but fell short in O.T., losing by only 3 pts.! 78-81.

Surprised by the lead? Yes indeed. We were expecting to have a blowout win by Croatia, actually most of us were expecting huge margins by the other teams against Gilas because they were the new kids on the block but the games showed otherwise.

Ok so the first game went down the wire, and let’s say it was just pure luck and on the game against Greece, the Greeks showed that they’re ranked #5 in the world by beating Gilas 82-70 in a highly physical game, but it was not a walk in the park for them as Gilas fought hard, closing the gap and made that game a tough one to play.
Again it was all heart for Gilas and that 12 pt. lead should have just been 9 but a three-point connection in the closing seconds made it a double-digit win. It was so physical that at the end of the game, a scuffle happened but good thing cooler heads prevail.

Now 0-2, the team faced an even tougher foe in Argentina. But again the team amazed us with another thriller, even taking leads, thanks to team captain Jimmy Alapag’s brilliant game (hitting 5 triples including a crucial long 3 basket that got the team back on the game), only succumbing to a heart-breaking loss, a game that could have gone the other way, with just a basket separating for a chance to win. A turnover by Castro in the dying seconds with a clamped-down defense by NBA veteran Andres Nocioni (coming out to save the day for the former World champs) cost the game and Nocioni nailing the final blow by sinking the 2 crucial freethrows for an 85-81 win. Another win that slipped away.

A make or break situation, Gilas needed to win their 4th game against Puerto Rico to get a chance to go on the next round. Senegal happened to capture their 2nd win so pressure was on them. It was a knockout game for both and as the game started, Gilas created a big lead early on only to lose it in an instant as JJ Barea played a hero’s role for the Puerto Ricans (who played minus starters Carlos Arroyo and Angel Vassallo), scorching for 30 pts. and breaking down any defense put up to him. Puerto Rico won the game 77-73.

On their four games played, turnovers hurt their chances as well as failed player rotation by the coach by not letting bigmen Junmar Fajardo (who played well despite limited minutes of action and was 2nd most efficient player in the tournament behind NBA all-star Pau Gasol of Spain) and Japeth Aguilar play longer minutes inside the hardcourt (as what observers saw) to win on those games.

Their last game with Senegal was a no bearing match as Senegal had already qualified for the next round, but it won’t deny team Philippines to capturing with its first ever FIBA World Cup victory in forty years! But before the celebration started, it was another close game that found the team in a brink of losing the game once more. It was like a déjà vu again when they couldn’t close the game and went into overtime. With NBA naturalized player Blatche fouling out, it put a scare on the Filipinos but bigman Junmar Fajardo stepped up bigtime in the game with his inside presence and Alapag finishing it for an 81-79, a fitting swan song for his international playing career.

To sum it up, it was a gallant effort by team Gilas, losing by just 23 points overall! They played their hearts out on every game. As what the trending went, it’s this hashtag #PUSO.

However it would be gratifying if they’ve won those close games, they could have been on the next round!

Anyway, congratulations to the team, to the 12 guys who fought mightily against some of the giants of the game. The team composed of naturalized player Andre Blatche (stepping in for Marcus Douthit), Jimmy Alapag, LA Tenorio, Paul Dalistan (replacing for the injured Larry Fonacier), Jayson Castro, Jeff Chan, Garry David, Ranidel De Ocampo, Marc Pingris, Gabe Norwood, Japeth Aguilar and Junmar Fajardo.

Hopefully this is just the start of a successful basketball program, be able to return at this stage again on the next tournament and not go backwards.

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See You in Spain! Gilas Team Wins Silver in FIBA to Qualify for World Basketball Championship

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.

Gilas 2.0

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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.