ASI Taulava professed he seldom drinks now, especially since catching a second wind in his PBA career.
But on this tense, rainy Thursday night, he can’t help but order a round of drinks as Gilas Pilipinas appeared on the verge of yet another major endgame collapse as it played its final preliminary round match in the Fiba World Cup against Senegal.
“Man, this game is making me nervous. I have to have some drink,” said the 41-year-old veteran big man as he watched – along with other anxious and screaming viewers - the closing seconds of the thrilling game during the final Viewing Series of Spin.ph on the campaign of Gilas Pilipinas in the world championship in Spain.
As it turned out, the nationals rose to the occasion even in the absence of a fouled-out Andray Blatche late in regulation as June Mar Fajardo and Jimmy Alapag took over in overtime and led a strong finishing kick by an all-Filipino Gilas side to hack out a rousing 81-79 win.
It was the first ever win for a Philippine team in the world stage in the last four decades, and the first for Gilas Pilipinas following heartbreaking defeats at the hands of world powers Croatia, Argentina, Greece, and Puerto Rico earlier in the tournament.
No wonder there was pandemonium inside the Centro Deportivo San Pablo as Filipino supporters went wild with chants of `Gilas! Gilas!’
It was the same inside the jampacked crowd at the second floor of the Draft Gastropub in Greenbelt 2 as viewers cheered in unison, exchanged high fives, and applauded wildly the moment Alapag buried five free throws in the final 45 seconds that clinched the win for the national team.
See video of the crowd inside Draft Gastropub as Gilas Pilipinas wins game against Senegal)
“I was shouting at the top of my voice. Ako nga yata ang isa sa mga pinaka-maingay dito,” GMA New Media Inc. (NMI) president and COO Judd Gallares told Spin.ph afterwards. “But you know, I don’t mind. As long as we win, as long as everybody is happy. Para naman sa bayan ito.”
For his part, Taulava could only heave a sigh of relief after seeing Gilas finally get over the hump after nearly pulling off wins against the Croatians, Argentines, and the Puerto Ricans.
“I’m happy for the team, happy for the boys. This is a proud moment for Gilas, a proud moment for the Philippines,” he said.
As for his round of beer?
“Nah, I don’t think I have to drink this anymore,” he said, leaving the bottle of beer untouched on the table.