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We are back in the World Cup, thanks to South Korea

By Al S. Mendoza

WE are back in business.

In August this year, the Philippines will play in the Fiba World Cup again.

Set in China, the most prestigious world basketball event next to the Olympics will feature 32 countries from four continents.

Asia/Oceania has eight nations qualified, with the Philippines pocketing the seventh ticket in an exceedingly dramatic manner.

Almost given up for lost in the last window of qualifying, the Philippines came up with a stunning performance not only once but twice to achieve the improbable:  Sweep its last two remaining assignments.

First, we routed Qatar by an astonishing 40-plus points to revive our flickering hopes to advance.

Then, in our final game in the qualifiers, we didn’t seem to have the tools to prevail.

Look, from our victorious stint in Doha, Qatar, we needed to fly the next day to Astana, Kazakhstan.

That meant we were subjected to play two crucial finals games in three days.

And in Kazakhstan, we were to play in minus-11 killer degrees.

The freezing weather was enough to freeze our gunfire, let alone turn our hearts as cold as ice.

But miraculously enough, our players did not succumb to icy conditions.

Instead, they played red-hot like labuyos, firing shots in succession as though the nippy, sneeze-inducing weather outside the arena was but an imagination.

The Philippine resurgence was exemplified by naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche, the 6-foot-11 former mainstay of the Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets in the NBA (National Basketball Association).

Blatche uncorked five triples in the early goings, accounting for 21 of the first 26 points of Gilas Pilipinas.

The beefy reinforcement went on to finish with a game-41 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks as the Philippines followed their rout of Qatar with another massacre of a win over the hapless Kazakhs.

But the Philippines has a lot to thank South Korea for in making it to the FIBA World Cup proper.

With South Korea scoring an 84-72 victory over Lebanon on the same night that the Philippines walloped Kazakhstan, the Lebanese were ousted to make way for our reentry into the Fiba finals.

It was sheer sportsmanship that the South Koreans had exhibited.

They were down early in the game but they did not surrender—when electing to surrender would not stop them anyway from advancing to the China proper.

In short, the Korean could have given Lebanon the win and, in essence, even avenge their World Cup elimination inflicted on them by the Filipinos in the 2013 Fiba Asia Cup in Manila.

We went to the 2014 Spain Fiba Worlds at the expense of South Korea.

Thus, for the Koreans to defeat Lebanon, we ought to express gratitude to South Korea.

Meaning, our big heart that produced the clincher over Kazakhstan would have gone for naught had South Korea played hanky-panky against Lebanon.

Who said clean, dirt-free, games are dead in sports?

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