CHANGSHA, China – Six games and more than a week after, the stinging loss of Gilas Pilipinas to Palestine in the opener of the Fiba-Asia Championship still lingers.
And that feeling of humiliation is what motivates the team to keep going in the Olympic qualifying tournament where it faces dangerous Lebanon in the quarterfinals.
“We knew the feeling of the Palestine game,” admitted veteran big man Asi Taulava, referring to the 75-73 loss which opened Gilas’ campaign here last week.
“We learned a big lesson from that game going into the quarterfinals. Now I think, it’s a blessing in disguise what happened to us early in the tournament.”
Since that shocking defeat to the Palestine – which incidentally failed to make it past the second round – the national team has been on a streak, winning its next five outings highlighted by an 87-73 upset of defending champion Iran that clinched for it the top seeding in Group E.
Team captain Dondon Hontiveros echoed Taulava’s thoughts, stressing the Palestine loss made the team more resolute in its bid to end a long 43-year absence from the Olympics.
“Nakuha namin ‘yung lesson na 'yun for us to remember that game,” said the Alasks wingman. “And when we go to the next game, we don’t want to feel that again. If you have to lose, the first game is the perfect time to lose.”
Of course, the quarterfinals is a different struggle altogether, something which Taulava and the rest of the team are now fully aware of.
“Everybody plays better when they get into the quarterfinals. So we just have to stay focused,” said the 42-year-old NLEX center.