It was a fairy tale ending that saw the Philippines back on top of an Asian championship tournament since 1998.
Last August 27, 2012, the Smart Gilas 2.0 Philippine National Team became the 4th Philippine National Basketball Team to win the gold medal in the 34th William Jones Cup in Taipei. The Gold Medal match against the USA
was one nail-biting game and in a game where height matters, ironically,
the smallest man on the court made the biggest impact. LA Tenorio
probably played the best game of his life as he lifted the Philippines
to victory. He took the biggest shots and even got the most important
rebound after a miss from the US team that would have given them the
lead in the dying seconds. As LA said, "This game is different because
we are playing for the country this time. Hindi ko na pangalan ang dala
dala ko dito, hindi Alaska, kundi Pilipinas."
But it was not an easy feat. The Gilas 2.0, as said by Coach Chot Reyes, was the weakest Philippine Team that was sent in the Jones Cup. In fact, the team was built around 2 weeks before the tournament. Before leaving for Taipei, Coach Chot said that they do not expect to win the tournament. Their main goal is to learn each other's game and build team chemistry.
But the team proved to be one of the best pool of players from the basketball loving nation. True, not one of the players have been an MVP for the Philippine Basketball Association. But this does not mean that they are not good. What made the team succeed was that the playing style of each player complimented each other. No one was bothered to play minor roles for the team. But everyone was prepared to be the go to guy when the need arises. In all the 7 wins of the team in the tournament, one player always stood out for the team. One day it was Douthit, the next it would be Lanete. Then there were games where Norwood carried the team or David, Chan or Tenorio. The opposing teams would guard one man, but another Filipino player will rise up to help the team. It proved that you don't need superstars to make a super team. All you need is a team with a lot of heart and the will to win with a never say die attitude. Filipinos loved the never-say-die mantra when it comes to basketball. And the Gilas 2.0 just showed that they are a team that gets knocked down but will get up again. In their last games against Japan, Iran, Chinese Taipei A and the USA, the team clawed their way back up from a deficit to eventually win the game. No one knows the meaning of giving up, thus, they were rewarded with a win each time. Fate was probably on our side as well, because after losing to Lebanon (which they said should have been an easy win), the powerhouse teams also lost their succeeding games giving the Philippines the chance to win the Gold in its last game.
The Philippines became known again in
the international basketball scene after years of "could haves",
"almosts", and "sayang". And to cap it all off, isn't just fitting
enough that Gilas 2.0 arrived back from Taipei while the Philippines
celebrated the National Heroes' Day?