Article by: Maia Paterno
Photograph from: http://theepochtimes.com
It has been thirty-six years since the Philippine national basketball team last competed on a global stage. In a tournament of such large magnitude like the FIBA World Cup, Filipinos have been waiting to watch the best of us play compete against some of the best in the world, playing a game that is practically a religious experience in the Philippines.
Going into the tournament on August 30 in Seville, Spain,; our men’s basketball team was not expecting to make a splash against the likes of Greece and Argentina, ranked number 5 and number 3 in the world respectively. The almost heroic effort displayed by the members of Gilas Pilipinas proved that the game isn’t just about height and athleticism, but about puso. Puso, the Tagalog word for heart, was dubbed the unofficial mantra of Gilas.
Though they fell short to Croatia 81 – 78 after a gritty overtime battle, it was only a preview of to the capabilities of this underdog team. The Philippines went on to play Greece and lost 70 – 82, their worst lost deficient deficit of the tournament. Less than twenty-four hours later, Gilas played Argentina. This was the game that put Team Pilipinas on everyone’s radar. Before the game started, even the Gilas supporters expected a loss, yet somehow, Gilas lead against the number three team in the world. Up until the final buzzer went off, they fought courageously, and showed the world that there was more to us the Filipinos than anyone could have ever expected. In the end, we fell short losing 85 – 81 to Argentina after a painful last couple of minutes in which Argentinian player, Luis Scola, dropped a triple shot to seal the game.
After the first three loses, the only chance for Gilas to advance to the round of 16 was to win their next two games. We knew our team was capable of winning against Puerto Rico. After a comfortable lead in the first half of the game, Gilas was unable to close out a critical game, losing 73 – 77. However, the bad streak was wiped out when the Philippines was able to finally earn a win, beating a Senegalese team by 79 – 81, to make making history in Philippine basketball as the our first game won in over thirty years at such an elite level.
The valiant effort displayed by Gilas players has proven that even though they played with a heavy burden on their shoulders, they couldn’t be knocked down. They proved to the world that there is so much more to come from Gilas Pilipinas, and that this their reappearance on a global scale platform after all these years is just the beginning of a new era of Philippine basketball.