NOT even the failure to get the services of a number of players could prevent Gilas Pilipinas 3.0 from overachieving in its Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship campaign in the Chinese province of Changsha.
Handled by veteran coach Tab Baldwin, the Filipinos played with grit and passion and were on the verge of earning a long-cherished dream of making it back to the Olympics until losing to host China in the gold medal match, 78-67, before a raucous crowd at the Changsha Social Work Colleges gymnasium.
For a team that wasn’t given much of s chance at reaching the final, the silver medal achievement was already a feat in itself, matching the same finish accomplished by the previous Gilas Pilipinas team under Chot Reyes when the Fiba-Asia meet was held in Manila in 2013.
The national team’s heroics, attained under trying circumstances, were enough to merit Gilas Pilipinas the President’s Award in the coming Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Annual Awards Night presented by MILO and San Miguel Corp.
Past honorees of the same award include the National University Bulldogs, former world champions Rubilen Amit, Dennis Orcollo, and Lee Van Corteza, Ateneo Blue Eagles, taekwondon jin Mikaela Calamba, Philippine women’s bowling trio, to name a few.
“The surprising silver medal finish by Gilas Pilipinas is truly inspiring especially for the basketball loving-Filipinos, who are always known for having a soft spot for the underdogs,” said PSA president Riera Mallari of the Manila Standard in justifying the selection.
The formal event, a traditional practice of the country’s oldest media organization, is set on February 13 at the One Esplanade in Pasay City.
World boxing champions Nonito Donaire Jr. and Donnie Nietes, along with Asian Tour winner and rising golf star Miguel Tabuena will be honored with the prestigious Athlete of the Year award during the affair also presented by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSA), Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), Accel, Rain or Shine, Globalport, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.
The sportswriting fraternity will also hand out major awards and citations, including the gold medal winners during the country’s campaign in the 28th Southeast Asian Games in Singapore.