Gilas Pilipinas’ three bizarre losses
By Jesus A. Garcia Jr.
DAYS before the start of this year’s World Cup, President Rodrigo Duterte made a fearless forecast that our national basketball team Gilas Pilipinas will surely not beat the Italian squad in their opening game on August 31. The prediction of Pres. Digong produced con and pro reactions in social media. Respected basketball analysts sided with Pres. Digong while the basketball connoisseurs in denial took potshots at him. But despite his forecast, Pres. Digong visited our nationals inside their locker room and gave them a morale boosting statements, and watched their game against the taller and quicker 13th world ranked Italy. Pres. Digong was right.
We saw on tv how our Gilas unexpectedly and unbelievably lost with an embarrassing 108-62 score that stunned all Pinoy basketball enthusiasts, including this writer, even if we knew that only a miracle could lift us to victory against the Italians, or perhaps lose only by just 20 points or less. But the 46 points deficit was too much to bear that many basketball pundits began to wonder how that could have happened when basketball is our number one favorite sport in the country and even acquired a 6’11” naturalized player and Fil-Ams to beef up Gilas. Truly puzzling to us. Perhaps, one of the factors was the absence of veteran guard Jason Castro, considered as the best point-guard in Asia.
Surprisingly, it’s our local boy professional newbie CJ Perez from Barangay Poponto, Bautista, Pangasinan who played marvelously, scoring a team high 15 points that surprised us including his head coach Weng Guiao.
Gilas’ second match on September 2 vs the world’s fourth ranked Serbia turned from bad to worse. The Serbians massacred our nationals, 126-67, and again our local boy CJ Perez turned the limelight for Gilas scoring a team high 16 marks.
The two dismal performances prompted Filipino netizens started to lose confidence in this year’s Gilas. “Ang pinagtataka ko ay bakit wala si Castro at bakit din ang mga Italians at Serbians na malalaki na ay sa labas pa rin sila tumitira samantalang ang Gilas naman ay mahilig sa saksak (penetration) bagamat undersized. Dapat sa labas din sila”, commented Larry Barrozo of Mangaldan. “Kapoy Sistema, Kuya Jess,” echoed Roberto Amado, Jr., a former UPang Websczar standout and now a veteran referee of Dagupan City. “Sad to say commissioner hindi pang international yung level at yung coaching style natin,” Alfred Arongat echoed Amado’s quip on his FB account.
Naturally, there were no praises from FB netizens but deep disappointments especially after Gilas was beaten by Angola team on September 4 via overtime, 84-81. This was the first time that a North African squad had defeated our nationals since the birth of World Championship in 1954 when we landed third, the first and only Asian country to do this feat spearheaded by Carlos Loyzaga. Perez was Gilas second top scorer with 17 points after Blatche’s 23, but not enough to raise Gilas.
Yes, obviously our Gilas is weak this year, unlike in 2014. This is another proof that despite Philippines being a basketball-crazy nation and a powerhouse in Asia, we’re no longer of world class caliber. Gilas should fix its weak spot especially that we are hosting the next World Cup in 2023. Filipinos don’t want another painful and bizarre defeats in their own turf. Siya nawa.
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. HEBREWS 11: 6
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