As Gilas gathers at midcourt one final time, captain Norwood tells teammates: 'Be proud'
Captain Gabe Norwood gathers Gilas players at mid-court one final time after a loss to New Zealand ended the hosts' dream of making it to the Rio Olympics. Jerome Ascano

MOMENTS after a loss to New Zealand ended Gilas Pilipinas' dream of a return to the Olympics, skipper Gabe Norwood gathered the team in midcourt for one final salute.

Problem was, an emotional Norwood was at a loss for words.

"I'm usually good with words, but (this time) I was at a loss for words, we didn't expect to be in this situation" Norwood said later when asked what he told his teammates at midcourt, moments after an 80-89 loss to New Zealand ended the Philippines' campaign in the 2016 Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Finally gathering his thoughts, Norwood finally let out the words that he wanted to say.

"I just told them to be proud,," said the national team mainstay. "As badly as it hurts, we should be proud."

[See Gilas Olympic dream ends after bowing to tough New Zealand side]

Around him, emotional scenes unfolded as Gilas - and the 20,000-plus fans that trooped to the Mall of Asia to support the national team - came to grips with another disappointment in a game many felt was 'winnable' for the host side.

At ringside, gunner Jeff Chan was seen hugging his wife as they said a prayer while behemoth June Mar Fajardo, unable to control his emotions, sunk into the loving embrace of his mother.

Later, the team huddled one last time inside the dugout as head coach Tab Baldwin proceeded to thank the team for committing to the program that started almost a year ago.

There were also a lot of goodbyes as this likely represented the last time an all-pro team carried the fight in an international competition with Fiba shifting to a home-and-away qualifying format for the 2019 World Cup.

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