THE way Gilas Pilipinas had been giving the opposition the fits in the FIBA World Cup in Spain should serve as a stern warning the Philippines is indeed, for real.
Following a close loss by the nationals against no. 3 ranked Argentina, 85-81, early Tuesday morning, Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao declared the Filipinos should no longer be ignored by those considered as top powers in the sport.
“No top team in the world is going to take us for granted from now on,” said Guiao, who served as guest analyst during the local television broadcast of the Gilas-Argentina game.
“You may look at the losses, but also look at the way how they fought.”
After stretching world power Croatia to overtime before eventually losing, 78-81, and holding its own against world no. 5 Greece, 72-80, Gilas had a shot of winning against Luis Scola and the Argentines after rallying back from a 15-point deficit to threaten at 83-81 in the final 24 seconds.
Unfortunately, Jayson Castro was called for a travelling violation in Gilas’ next possession, and Argentina clinched the win by nailing two free throws at the other end that kept the Philippines still winless in the world championship since last emerging victorious in the meet with a thrilling 87-86 triumph over the Central African Republic during the 1974 edition of the tournament in Puerto Rico.
Still, Guiao, sees a lot of positive with the way Gilas had been performing in the country’s first ever appearance back in the world basketball map in the last 36 years.
“For me as a Filipino coach, and for us as Filipino people, maganda ito,” said the Rain or Shine mentor. “I think we are 20 points better than our last international competition, and we have risen in terms of the level of play.”
Three players stood out for Guiao in the Argentina game. He said Ranidel de Ocampo played good, Gabe Norwood, his player at Rain or Shine, provided some of the highlight reel plays, including that vicious in-your-face slam against Scola, and of course, there was Jimmy Alapag.
“I think Jimmy played incredible the last five or six minutes of the game where he was fielded in. His three-point shooting put us back in the game,” said Guiao, who served as coach of an all-pro team during the 2009 FIBA-Asia Men’s Championship.
Guiao is likewise not losing hope as far as Gilas final two games in the preliminaries is concerned against Puerto Rico and Senegal.
“I think Puerto Rico is a winnable game because they also have the same size as our guards,” he pointed out.
“Initially, we thought Senegal is the ideal team we can beat, but with the way it is playing, we can still beat them, but hope that they may have their night,” Guaio said.
“I think they may have advanced to the next round, so hopefully they may want to relax a bit when they play us.”