Sunday, August 11, 2013

Guest Post: 11 Years of Heartbreak: Broken

Gilas Pilipinas
Written by my husband, when we won against South Korea. We may have lost to Iran, but we we definitely fought a good fight! Go Gilas! :D

I started following the basketball scene when I was 11 years old. 1994 was the year I met the San Miguel Beermen (SMB) and eventually fell in love with their gung-ho style of play. With The Director, Atom Bomb, Robocop, El Presidente, and the Triggerman leading the charge, they bagged the All Filipino Cup Title against The Captain and The Defense Minister’s Coney Island. This win gave them the Right to represent the country in the Asian Games to be held in Hiroshima – this, if I can remember clearly was a suggestion made by then Swift Mighty Meaty Team’s head Coach - Yeng Guiao.

SMB, led by Coach Norman Black, added Kenneth Duremdez and Marlou Aquino from the amateur ranks; The Captain, Jerry Codinera, and Rey Evangelista from Coney Island, and Johnny Abbarientos from Alaska to the fold due to injuries sustained by some of its players. The Team started out hot. I watched as they steamrolled their first 3 opponents and then flunking on the next 3 booting us out of podium when they lost to Japan in the Bronze medal game.

This was my first taste of our National Team – then called the RP Team - in action.

After the 1994 PBA Season, I began following the basketball scene with much eagerness. I even started writing articles and mailed them to the PBA and other sports publishing companies with the hopes of it being published. None of them made it through except for my 1998 piece (which was the sports page headline of the Sultan Turret – our high school’s official publication) titled – “It’s Now or Never” chronicling our National Team’s quest for Basketball Supremacy. This Team was bannered by the Alaska Milkmen who won a Grand Slam in 1996. If memory serves me right, I believe they won 4 straight games before falling to China and South Korea and finished 3rd Over-All.

After the Centennial Team, the start of the 11-Year Heartbreak began.
The 2002 National Team was again fully supported by the PBA sending its best players and was piloted by Ron Jacobs in Busan, South Korea. The Team looked like it was ready for War until their General – Coach Ron Jacobs suffered a stroke. He was replaced by his long-time assistant Jong Juichico. Despite losing Danny Seigle due to an injury while playing their last tune-up game against Australia, the team came close to fighting for all the marbles not until Olsen Racela – a near 90% free throw shooter in his 17-year career in the PBA muffed 2 freebies thereby costing us the most precious “W” at that time.

Here’s an excerpt from chronicling the fateful game:
Coach Jong Uichico was confident heading into his team’s knockout semifinal showdown against South Korea:

“The boys are ready,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “Our gameplan is all set. We won’t bite on their shooting game and up-and-down style of play.”

South Korea was still up, 66-62, with less than two minutes left when Dondon Hontiveros nailed a three-pointer from the right corner to cut the Philippine deficit to one point.
After getting a defensive stop, the Philippines threw the ball down into Asi

Taulava, who drew a double-team and rifled a pass to the top of the key to Olsen Racela. The San Miguel Beer point guard pulled up for a 24-foot three-pointer that hit nothing but net to give the Philippines the lead, 68-66, with just 51.2 seconds remaining.
The South Koreans came up empty-handed once more in the next possession, and were forced to send Racela to the line with 23.9 seconds left.

But Racela, who top-scored for the Philippines with 14 points, missed both charities. That gave South Korea one last crack, and Lee Sang-min, after faking off Racela and Taulava, nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer to give his team the victory.

Dreams went pffft…..

In 2009, then lead by Coach Yeng Guiao – we also faced the Koreans for the Battle for the 7th place. We had 3 opportunities to take the lead with some 19 ticks left but It all just rattled off the rim then with 2 seconds left, a lay-up was converted by the Koreans.

Then the Gilas 1.0 tragedy followed in 2011. We were up by 9 points in the 3rd but the lead was chopped slowly and with 47 seconds left, the Koreans went ahead by 2. We had tons of opportunities to reclaim the lead but we could only find the back of the rim. The “Olsen free throws” haunted us as this time, it was Kelly Williams’ turn of busting his frees.

2 years later, we found ourselves facing a familiar foe with an “L” equaling to “Evaporated Dreams”. The article I shared above from gave me the chills all throughout the game not until the Team Captain – Jimmy Alapag started connecting from downtown.

Without our Top Player, our Guards came through big for us. Jason Castro reminded us why he was called “The Blurr”, The Lieutenant L.A. Tenorio’s timely hits kept us in the game and who would forget Alapag’s cold-blooded 3s? Even without Douthit, the paint was defended well by Marc Pingris who held his ground against the bigger and heftier Koreans. Whatever Ping, Ranidel de Ocampo, and Japhet Aguilar lacked in size, they made up with their Hearts.

With the Win, the 11-years of heart break caused by the Koreans were all worth it. The “W” could not have had a better timing as with the win, the following were accomplished:
- South Korea curse ended
- We did so right in front of our countrymen while we dutifully defended our home court
- Mission: ACCOMPLISHED. Not just that – we did so bettering the
country which hounded us for 11 years.

We are very lucky to have been able to witness the rewriting of our sports’ history right before our very eyes. Tonight, the Mall of Asia Arena will have its hands full as they get the chance to prove to the whole world what they can offer. I bet tonight’s Gold Medal Game will top whatever attendance and sales record the arena currently holds. Win or Lose, we’ve already managed to hit our target but then again, opportunities like this does not come often and so I sincerely hope and pray we’d go all out against the Iranians.

Last night, the Basketball Gods smiled on us! Success favors those who are prepared and prepared hard we did!

God Bless Gilas!


  1. Wow obviously he's a fanatic! Hehe. Great job! :)


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