December 7, 2023

More than a week has lapsed from the conclusion of the basketball championship match in the Asian Games in Hangzou, China pitting the Philippines versus Jordan and still, the euphoria of the Gilas Pilipinas victory lingers in the hearts and minds of basketball-crazy Filipino fans. They can’t get over the excitement and continues to talk about the miraculous run of our team. And why not?
After 61 years of waiting, the Philippines is on top of Asia. The last time a Philippine quintet obtained a medal in the Asian basketball tournament was in 1962. Thereafter, the campaign of the Philippine team can only be characterized with frustration after frustration. Who would ever forget that last-second buzzer beater launched by a Korean player during the Asian Busan Games that collectively broke our hearts? That was a dagger that pierced into the collective souls of all Filipinos. Then, in the next Asian Games, the national team suffered the same fate, losing one game after another without even figuring prominently in the medal race.
Thus, when a rag-tag team was assembled to represent the country in this version of the Asian Games, nobody gave them a “Chinaman’s” chance of winning. They will end up with the same fate as their predecessors. What with China looking for redemption and revenge not to mention that the rest of the Asian countries improved by leaps and bounds in their respective basketball programs. Even lowly teams like Thailand are now contenders. Not only that.
In the recently concluded World Cup, the Gilas Pilipinas team that competed performed poorly. If Gilas cannot win convincingly against lesser opponents, how much more in the Asian level where teams are stronger and are reinforced by their best players?
But miracles do happen. Surely, this is one of them. The gold medal that was garnered by Gilas is indeed a miracle. For how else can mere mortals translate the events that transpired? How can it be comprehended that Gilas eked out China on its own home court after being down by more than 20 points? How else can it be justified that China committed three turnovers in the last two minutes of play allowing Justine Brownlee to parlay it into eight points, none bigger than those two booming triples that denied China of an expectant victory? How else can it be explained that in the championship game, Jordan’s naturalized player, the indefatigable and incomparable Rondae Hollis-Jefferson went cold all evening and was not his usual self?
Ah, yes there is Brownlee who, game after game, saved the day for the Filipino cagers. He made the winning shot against Iran and the day after, torched the Chinese team with a mind-boggling performance for the ages. His brilliance was the turning point. Thankfully, Brownlee is not running for president because if he did, he could win it hands-down. There are suggestions that a statue be erected in his honor. Why not? He deserves the accolade of a thankful nation.
Then again, there is Tim Cone, the brilliant coach who guided Gilas Pilipinas to victory. He said it all after all the players were awarded their gold medals: “This triumph is for the Filipino people who waited for 61 years for this to happen.”
Yes, sir, we waited but the long wait is worth it. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas.