years from now, the memory of this night will still be as clear as day to every basketball loving Filipino. August 10,2013. we finally laid our demons to rest.
Years from now you will still be able to recall every single quarter of this game with clarity, as your friends supply other details. others watched it live, others on television, some on streaming and some busy souls on their social media timelines. For a select few, with the word PILIPINAS proudly displayed on their chests, they battled, for forty hard fought minutes, through injury, through fatigue through every pain imaginable so that the rest of us can, at the end of regulation ; stand up and applaud, raise our fists, jump for joy scream at the top of our lungs and weep in joy as we celebrate the previously thought of as impossible.
We have reentered basketball’s elite circle.
Thank you Gilas.
Every Filipino hoops junkie knows of our history in top flight basketball competitions against South Korea, well basically they keep breaking our hearts over and goddamn over again.
1986 103-102. korea wins in Seoul over an inexplicable offensive foul call on allan Caidic.
2002 69-68 Korea wins in Busan as Lee Sang Min puts up a buzzer beater Three
2011 70-68 Korea wins on a frenetic 35 point barrage in the final quarter.
27 years of bitter tears to wipe away.
years from now you’ll remember how you sat in front of your TV in nervous anticipation, exchanging facebook status updates and comments with your friends as the teams exchange basket in the first quarter pleading with the men in white to keep it close.
Years from now you’ll remember the despair you felt as you saw Marcus Douthit, the naturalized Filipino who played for our Flag and country injured, land on his right leg and crumple to the floor in agony, and as the Koreans race to start a 4 on 5 fast break, in those few precious seconds you keep hoping to see Marcus come flying in from the back court to even out the odds.
As you watch the Physiotherapist try to work on Douthit’s injury in the bench you keep hoping to see him back on the court for surely we can’t win without his defense right? and as he limps off the court to the dugout you will remember the sense of foreboding as you silently curse the basketball deities that seems to have snatched the possibility of victory right from your eyes.
I guarantee you decades from now we will still be talking about the resiliency, the heart and tenacity of Gilas. About how Jayson Castro erased a 7 point Korea lead in the Third quarter with his out of this world speed as Coach Chot unleashed him on the Koreans. How Marc Pingris, with Japeth Aguilar saddled with three fouls on the bench next to the injured Douthit anchored the defense with just pure will and athleticism, skying for rebounds and putbacks playing hard nosed defense on the bigger Koreans, Living up to his Sakuragi billing. Gabe Norwood and his defense, Jeff Chan and his shooting as we turned a half time deficit into a ten point lead going into the 4th Quarter.
But this is South Korea, and they quickly overcame our lead and even led with three plus minutes left to go, and only the heads up playmaking of our guards, Tenorio Alapag and castro kept us close. the image of Marc Pingris clutching at his hamstring playing through injury, the heady plays of Ranidel De Ocampo as he dished to Aguilar on multiple occasions for easy baskets, Ranidel’s 5 point string, Jimmy’s three point daggers until finally you remember the roar of the crowd mingled with your own screams of triumph, unabashedly crying as you watch the players pound the floor, lift their hands up in triumph, race to their families for hugs and kisses. we slew the ghosts of past heartaches.
We have always held our basketball heroes in high regard. From Caloy Loyzaga, to florencio and ocampo, to the era of Jaworski and Fernandez, to the northern consolidated of Caidic and Samboy, to the pretty boy era of Paras, Patrimonio, Codinera, Lastimosa. The time of Asi,Danny I and Danny S.
I among others will still believe that James Yap and Arwind Santos are two of our best and brightest. but this Gilas team, This is a throwback team to the golden age of Philippine Basketball. where egos are checked outside of the gym. where everyone roots for each other and star billing is unheard of. which is the reason why this team has succeeded where previous Philippine teams composed of the PBA’s top stars have not. It’s not about starter’s minutes or touches, it’s about playing your role and playing it, in the words of coach chot: “they’ll have to drag our bodies out of the court.”
Tomorrow Gilas goes up against Haddadi and his Iran crew without Douthit and 24 hours after this emotional victory. win or lose, we shall go on to Spain for the FIBA world cup next year. whatever happens tomorrow will happen. but you will always remember, as you tell your grand kids for the umpteenth time, decades from now how even as your country faced corruption to the highest order, your heart swelled with pride as you kept punching the air, tears freely falling from your eyes as you kept shouting yes, yes yes! as you witnessed a special group of young men, give everything they had, for pride, for country and for love of the game.These young men are heroes.
see you in Spain Gilas!