FOSHAN, CHINA - A damned Gilas Pilipinas campaign in the 2019 Fiba World Cup that started with a terribly lopsided loss ended in heartbreak.
Gilas players were inconsolable on Wednesday afternoon after a courageous comeback against Angola ended in a bitter 84-81 overtime loss that jeopardized their chances of making it to the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Kiefer Ravena, who was part of the core group that led Gilas back from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit, became emotional as soon as his desperation shot at a game-tying three-pointer bounced off the rim.
He had to be led out of the court by teammates but broke down even before he could reach the dugout, crying unabashedly before mediamen at the mixed zone were ambush post-game interviews are held.
"Sino ba namang hindi maiiyak sa doon," Ravena said in between sobs.
Even coach Yeng Guiao, a tough-talking coach who hardly shows his emotions in victory and defeat, was a bit teary eyed when he faced mediamen in the post-game press conference, mouthing incoherent lines before finally gathering his thoughts.
Team insiders bared the same scenes were repeated inside the dugout.
When he finally got to compose himself to face Manila-based sportswriters again, the former Ateneo star said blamed emotions bottled up since the buildup for the World Cup for the breakdown.
"It’s an emotional game for each and everyone of us," he said. "Naipon na rin lang siguro yon. We’ve been under so much fire even before we left for here. Kahit yung ibang mga tao hindi naniniwala na mananalo kami."
Ravena said it was also disappointing to let countrymen down.
"Kaya rin naman kami malungkot kasi di naming napapasaya ang mga kababayan namin, more than anything else, kami naglalaro para sa bayan," he said.