SMART Gilas-Pilipinas arrived home on Monday fresh from its championship conquest in the 34th William Jones Cup basketball tournament and was greeted at the airport like conquering heroes.
Led by coach Chot Reyes and team manager Butch Antonio, the Nationals arrived to a hero’s welcome at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport after a two-hour trip from Taipei.
The Nationals had with them the shining championship trophy symbolizing their dominance of the week-long tournament which they topped with a 7-1 (win-loss) slate and capped with a 76-75 win over 13-time champion Team USA on the final day of competition on Sunday night at the TPEC gym.
Congratulatory streamers and banners greeted the team at the airport.
“Back in Manila! Thank you again for all the Prayers and Support. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas,” L.A. Tenorio tweeted on his account @LA_Tenorio shortly upon the team’s arrival. Tenorio was adjudged the MVP of the tournament following his back-to-back heroics in Gilas’ victories over Chinese-Taipei A and the U.S.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manny V. Pangilinan is set to host a thanksgiving dinner for the team on Monday night at the Meralco Lighthouse.
The Jones Cup championship was the fourth for the country, but only the first since the Centennial Team won it in 1998.
Reyes was the first Filipino coach to lead a team to the championship. He was also an assistant to Tim Cone in the 1998 team.