FILIPINO fans were left in despair on Wednesday after Gilas Pilipinas suffered an 89-80 loss to New Zealand, ending its campaign in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament on home soil.
What made it more painful was the deflating loss came a day after Gilas put up a gallant stand against the Tony Parker-led France before falling short, 93-84.
Philippine basketball has made great strides over the past years, but the disappointing OQT stint showed there's still much to do if the country hopes to avoid more heartbreaks in the international basketball hoops scene.
As bad as the letdown was, there were more heartbreaking moments for the Philippines in international basketball.
Here are some of them:
2003 FIBA ASIA CHAMPIONSHIP
Now known as the 'Harbin Disaster,' the Philippines finished 15th out of 16 teams in the 2003 Fiba Asia Championship with a team coached by Aric del Rosario and made up of a rag-tag team led by a young Marc Pingris and Celino Cruz. The team spared itself a last-place finish when it beat Malaysia, 78-63, in its last game. The outrage over the Harbin embarassment piled more pressure on the embattled Basketball Association of the Philippines, which, years later, was replaced by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas as the Fiba-recognized basketball body in the country.
2014 ASIAN GAMES
The Philippines was coming off a high when Gilas Pilipinas reached the 2014 Fiba World Cup in 2014, beating Senegal in their final game of the preliminaries. But a few days after the World Cup, Gilas was sent crashing back to earth in the Asian Games in Incheon where they were one of the favorites to win a medal. The Philippines settled for seventh place, suffering losses to Qatar and South Korea, then got a win over Kazakhstan that was marred by that infamous ‘own goal’ by Marcus Douthit in a desperate bid to reach the margin of victory to make it to the semifinals.
1989 SOUTHEAST ASIAN GAMES
In the 18 men's basketball tournaments of the Southeast Asian Games, the Philippines has only lost the gold medal once, back in 1989 against host Malaysia, 107-99, in the final game. The PH team was led by Gilbert ‘Jun’ Reyes, Gido Babilonia, Gerry Esplana, and Vergel Meneses. Then-Basketball Association of the Philippines president Lito Puyat could only utter the words, “Pito ang kalaban,” referring to the two referees after the shock loss, insinuating a hometown decision. Still, that loss was one of the lowest points in Philippine basketball history.
1990 ASIAN GAMES
The dawn of open basketball brought renewed hope for the Philippines, which formed its own 'dream team' of pro players from the PBA to compete in the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing. The team, coached by the legendary Robert Jaworski and bannered by Mon Fernandez, Allan Caidic and Hector Calma, beat their first three opponents before being dealt a reality check in the form of a 60-125 defeat at the hands of China. The team went on to bag the silver medal, losing by a more respctable margin, 74-90, to China in the finals.
2005 NBC NORTHERN BASKETBALL FINALS
A BAP-formed national team that was being trained for the 2005 Southeast Asian Games was left red-faced when it lost, 56-63, to a Paranaque Jets side coached by TV host/comedian Anjo Ylana that included Richard Gomez. The fury over the defeat led to calls for the disbandment of the Boycie Zamar-coached side which then PBL commissioner Chino Trinidad dismissed as 'thrash.' The Philippine Olympic Committee later suspended then expelled the BAP from its ranks, leading to a long-drawn leadership squabble that led to the birth of the SBP.
2011 FIBA ASIA CHAMPIONSHIP
The Gilas 1.0 coached by Rajko Toroman was starting to make waves in Asian basketball, reaching the semifinals of the Fiba-Asia Championship in Wuhan, China. Despite the loss to Jordan in the final four, the Philippines was on pace to land the third spot and a place in the qualifying tournament for the 2012 London Olympics, only to suffer a two-point loss to heated rival South Korea.
2002 ASIAN GAMES
Of course, who can forget the heartbreak of heartbreaks in Busan? The national squad was poised to beat Korea for a place in the gold medal match despite playing in hostile territory, with Olsen Racela stepping to the line to try and extend a two-point Philippine lead, 68-66. But Racela missed both free throws, setting the stage for Lee Sang Min's buzzer-beating triple to steal the victory.