Pesky, Gritty, Feisty Gilas Pilipinas
The stage is set. All we have to do is to answer the call. The inclusion of the Philippines in the FIBA World Cup this year is a testament to all the hard work for continuous improvement in our basketball program.
While we certainly have no delusions about bringing home the bacon and bagging the gold, the mere presence of Team Gilas Pilipinas in the world stage is a success story in itself. We are, after all, little brown men (and one bonafide NBA player named Andray Blatche) in the land of the giants.
Bigger isn't always better
Based on looks and height alone, we should be pushovers. The mere fact that top-tier teams are up on their heels against us is a good indicator of how far our talents and our style of gutsy basketball, characterized by pesky defense and gritty offense topped with an unquestionable heart, can take us.
While a record of 0-3 (so far) isn't exactly impressive, there are circumstances when you need to look beyond the stats, and this is one of those cases.
This is the big stage and we can't expect mercy calls from refs simply because we're 5'8"-5'10" trying to stay in front of players who are 6'5-6'10". We're up against the big boys, and if we want to show that we truly belong, it's time to puff our chests and show our mettle.
Win or lose, we are taking something with us from this ongoing experience.
Heartbreaking Near Wins
If you still haven't gotten over those crucial plays against Croatia, you're not alone. We almost had it. A Jason William play or a Jeff Chan triple would have change this whole article. Unfortunately, near wins still do not equate to anything but losses. It doesn't matter if the margin is one or twenty. A win by twenty points is still one win and a defeat by 1 point is still equal to one loss.
Must Win Scenario
With our boys dropping the first three games, we find ourselves in a must-win situation. With two games left, our hopes for 2nd round action are still not extinguished as yet. On paper, our next opponents (Senegal and Puerto Rico) should not prove to be bigger challenges than what we have encountered so far. On paper, at least. Remember that Pinoy saying about the ball being round? Our boys still have to show up and play their best.
A little luck, of course, is always welcome.
Our next match up against Puerto Rico (with the same 0-3 record) should provide the perfect stage for that elusive W. It is a crucial game that we must win to keep our hopes alive. Provided Gilas Pilipinas emerges victorious in that game, they then have to prove victorious against Senegal (2-1) to remain in contention.
From here on out
This is our first foray into unchartered territories and our flag bearers, Gilas Pilipinas, is proving that we Pinoys truly belong. While a gold medal was never a realistic goal to begin with, we will still bring home the experience of international competition, which can prove to be invaluable in the years to come.
The national team is performing above expectations. It isn't a long stretch to assume that most teams who we've faced so far expected to destroy us by double digits. The fact that we almost won two of those contests drive home the point that we're an up and coming force to be reckoned with.
Teams can no longer expect to play lackadaisical ball against us. The Philippines has world-class basketball talent. We belong. It is only a matter of making sure we stay competitive and improve from here on out.