TAIPEI - Dinner was long served but Gilas Pilipinas coaches, officials and players stayed around at Carnegie's on Tuesday night - not for cocktails but to watch the thrilling endgame of the Taipei A-Canada match being shown in television monitors around the bar.
Cheers rang out moments later as the home team completed a stunning 89-86 win over the previously unbeaten Canadians, leaving the championship door open not only for Gilas but for other well-positioned teams in the 39th Jones Cup basketball invitational.
Watch the scene inside the bar:
The tournament format calls for a single-round phase where the team with the best record is declared winner. Canada had beaten Gilas, 90-77, on opening day as well as Lithuania and could've won the title outright with a sweep of its nine games.
The Canadians' loss to Taipei, therefore, breathed life into the championship hopes of teams like Gilas, South Korea, and Lithuania, which now share first place with Canada on 3-1 (win-loss) records.
"Buhay pa," shouted the players amid the joyous scenes inside the bar in downtown Taipei at the end of the dinner hosted by the PBA for the national team.
Gilas, however, has a lot more work to do if it hopes to bring home the championship in this 10-nation, nine-day showpiece which Mighty Sports ruled last year and the Philippine national team last won in 2012 behind the heroics of tournament MVP LA Tenorio.
"'Yun ang mahirap," said Gilas guard Kiefer Ravena. "Baka nagka-chance nga tayo, tapos matatalo rin tayo sa susunod, so wala rin."
Gilas coach Chot Reyes admits their biggest test begins on Wednesday when they take on South Korea, which, according to assistant coach and chief scout Jong Uichico, has brought a young national team to this tournament studded with around five or six mainstays.
The next day, Gilas faces another formidable team in Lithuania, which got back in the title hunt with a 95-80 win against South Korea late Tuesday.
"I think we're approaching the meat of our schedule," said Reyes. "We got Korea then Lithuania back-to-back, so that's going to be a huge mountain for us to climb."