Watching Gilas Pilipinas waste another double-digit spread in the second half against Senegal evoked memories of the team’s forgettable endgame meltdowns against Croatia, Argentina and Puerto Rico.
But in the national team’s final preliminary round Fiba World Cup schedule, the poise was there, the grit was there, and of course, June Mar Fajardo was also there .
I don’t actually remember Fajardo and naturalized big am Andray Blatche playing together in the team’s first four games. But boy, their combination sure was fun to watch.
Two big men complementing each other in the fourth quarter and through overtime, up until Blatche fouled out.
But Gilas Pilipinas showed the endgame composure it didn’t have during its past games this week, a positive sign for the national squad, which also ended the country’s string of 12 straight losses in the Fiba World Cup, dating back to the 1978 edition in Manila.
Gilas Pilipinas wrapped up the country’s return to the world stage with a 1-4 record, paltry for some, but the Filipinos have nothing to be ashamed of, having battled against the best of the best in Group B and almost, yes, almost coming out victorious.
I believe the lone Fiba World Cup victory is just the beginning for Philippine basketball as it continues its ascent to the global basketball hierarchy.
Hopefully, as Gilas continues to fight with puso and carry the laban mentality, we will eventually see the Philippines regain its once lofty billing, not just in Asia, but in the world, as well.