Aug. 11, 2013
For 11 years, long-suffering Filipino basketball fans bleed whenever South Korea was mentioned in a sentence or in any conversation. How can we not when, starting on that ill-fated day in the 2002 Busan Asian Games, and for unknown reasons, we always end up in the losing end whenever we faced those hated but feared Koreans.
Who would forget that one-point loss when we came two free throws and a defensive stop away from advancing to the gold medal round only to get stabbed with that last-second, dagger-in-the-heart triple. And then it was downhill for us from there as it was just one of the many heartbreaking defeats that followed after that painful experience.
Powerade Pilipinas, a team coached by Rain or Shine mentor Joseller “Yeng” Guiao, absorbed a stinging 80-82 defeat in a game for seventh place in the 2009 edition of the FIBA-Asia Championship in Tianjin, China. It was a match decided by a last-second basket after the Filipinos missed three shots in row with the game knotted at 80-all.
Count that 66-74 quartefinal loss in the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, the 70-78 defeat in the elimination round of the 2011 Jones Cup in Chinese Taipei and the 68-70 setback for the bronze in the 2011 FIBA-Asia Championship in Wuhan, China by a Rajko Toroman-mentored Smart Gilas Pilipinas, the progenator of the current Gilas squad in this 27th edition of the biennial meet, not too long ago.
Like the good, all bad things must come to an end thanks to Chot Reyes and our 12 brave, Gilas players and the thousands at the MOAS Arena and millions outside it, bless their hearts, the Korean curse has ended.
That mammoth 86-79 win by Gilas over South Korea not only booked us a seat in the finals agianst the taller, biggest and more experienced Iran, which made it through by overpowering China conqueror Chinese Taipei, but it also sealed us one of the three berths in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, then called the FIBA World Championship, in Spain.
It will also book us a return to the World stage for the first time since the country hosted the conclave of the world’s best in 1978 at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum while also earning a chance to end a 27-year title drought in the Asian joust. The win also matched the Robert Jaworski, Sr.-mentored Phl squad’s silver medal effort in the 1990 Beijing Asian Games.
The win somehow came as a soothing balm for the hearts of the Olsen Racelas, the Jong Uichicos, Yeng Guiaos, Chris Tius, Asi Taulavas, Rajko Toromans and so many others who shed tears at the hands of the Koreans. This Gilas win is for you, handwrapped by no less than Chot Reyes and the rest of the Gilas team.
But most importantly, it restored pride to this basketball-crazy nation after years of frustrations and heartbreaks.
And thank you to all our heroes: Mr. Manny V. Pangilinan, or MVP, from whose generous heart has kept the program running; Chot Reyes, from whom’s unbending faith, kept the team in the right path; Marcus Douthit, Jimmy Alapag, Marc Pingris, Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood, Gary David, Ranidel de Ocampo, Jayson (Castro) William, Japeth Aguilar, Larry Fonacier, LA Tenorio and Junemar Fajardo, from whom we owe gratitude for plodding on; All Filipinos inside and out the MOA Arena from whose unflagging support never wavered; And to all the people who helped in little ways along the way.
You are all heroes.
Now beat Iran and win the gold.
Can I sharpen my Spanish now? Vamos Pilipinas!
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(Photos from Paul Ryan Tan and Nuki Sabio of FIBA-Asia)