After a near-win against China, we are ready vs Korea
By Al S. Mendoza
WITH the way we played against China, I won’t be surprised if we defeat South Korea on Monday (August 28) in the Jakarta Asiad basketball tournament.
Against China, we were tough in defense.
We executed well.
We fired open shots at will.
Too bad good breaks didn’t go our way in the dying seconds of that match.
We were up by three points with 73 or so seconds left.
We missed a short stab that could have given us a big 5-point cushion.
Next, a hook shot pass by the usually accurate Stanley Pringle was swiped away.
Had that pitch fallen into the hands of Pringle’s teammate, it might have ensured a freeze-the-ball situation for us and could have even led to a basket conversion.
When bad breaks hit you, it is almost next to impossible to win a contest.
China’s good breaks in the endgame saw them escape by the skin of their teeth.
Truth to tell, the Chinese didn’t beat us.
Simply, we gave it away, losing grip of the handle at crunch time.
Therefore, there is nothing to be ashamed of.
First, we faced a defending champion, listed in pre-tournament billing as the heavy favorite to retain its crown.
Two, China is giants-laden, its point-guards standing 6-foot plus, boasting even of three seven-footers.
And three, we were supposed to be ripped into shreds, mainly because our squad was hastily formed and had barely practiced its offensive sock.
Do not forget that we had initially informed Asiad organizers we were not joining the basketball tournament of the 45-nation quadrennial Games.
But responding to a noisy call from our basketball-crazed netizens to reconsider the withdrawal, we proceeded, quite correctly, to play if only to prove that we treat the game as our national pastime.
Then we got the lucky break to harness the talent of Fil-Am Jordan Clarkson, the Cleveland Cavalier, who made it to the Philippine Team after the NBA had reversed its earlier decision to prevent the Fil-Am from seeing action in the Asiad.
Debuting against China after missing our game against Kazakhstan that saw us massacre the Kazakhs by 37 points, Clarkson showed his worth by scoring a game-high 28 points in the Philippines’ 82-80 loss to the Chinese.
Who knows what might have happened had Clarkson not suffered cramps in the homestretch?
And, yes, did Paul Lee not miss a buzzer-beating three-point attempt that hit the back rim?
Had that shot found its mark, we would have stolen the game by a single point. Breaks, indeed, weren’t with us that night.
I was lucky enough to watch that game at the Philippine embassy in Beijing, thank you so much to Chito Sta. Romana, a dear college buddy of mine who is now our ambassador to China.
Amba Chito is an exceedingly good diplomat, if I may so, and President Duterte is more than lucky enough to have convinced him to accept the posting.
An added thrill while I was watching the Philippines-China game was seeing Jimmy FlorCruz, the former CNN Beijing bureau chief, seated next to me in the Embassy sala lustily cheering our team, with his comely wife, Anna, silently slouched on a sofa.
Let us all watch tomorrow’s (August 28) game between the Philippines and South Korea.
Since I’m home, thank God, I’m set to watch it in the comfort of my humble living room. A stemmed glass in hand.
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