ON a year when there were more misses than hits in local sports, the Gilas Pilipinas basketball squad provided one of the saving graces by capturing the Williams Jones Cup in Taiwan for the first time in 14 years.
For achieving the amazing feat, the team will be amply rewarded as it was unanimously chosen to receive the President’s award during the PSA-Milo Annual Awards Night on March 16 at the Manila Hotel ballroom.
The victorious squad will share center stage with other athletes who left their mark in 2012, led by boxer Nonito Donaire, female fighter Josie Gabuco, the Manila women’s softball team, and the Ateneo Blue Eagles, co-winners of the highly-coveted Athlete of the Year Award.
The members of the Gilas team were L.A Tenorio, named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, Jeff Chan, Larry Fonacier, Gabe Norwood, Gary David, Ranidel De Ocampo, Sonny Thoss, Rico Villanueva, Jay-R Reyes, Mac Baracael, Garvo Lanete, Matt Ganuela, Sol Mercado, and Marcus Douthit,toasted and feted in their return with sports patron and chief backer Manny V. Pangilinan heading the welcomers.
Handled by multi-titled Chot Reyes, Gilas posted seven wins in eight outings in the one-round tournament, including a title-clinching 76-75 thriller over a tall team from the United States.
In the course of its title victory, the Gilas quintet defeated Jordan (88-78), Guangha (99-68), Korea (82-79), Japan (88-84), Iran (77-75), but lost to Lebanon (72-91).
The Philippines last won the Jones Cup in 1998, when the Centennial Team, then handled by Tim Cone and made up of the PBA elite, took home the championship.
It was the country’s third Jones Cup crown after two earlier conquests by a team carrying the banner of a company owned by Ambassador Danding Cojuangco.
“’Ít’s an honor they richly deserve. The team surprised almost everyone given the depth of the field,” said PSA president Rey Bancod of Tempo after the PSA board meeting recently.
A long line of awardees will be honored during the 2-hour rites backed by the Philippine Sports Commission, Harbour Centre, Rain or Shine, Philippine Basketball Association, Smart, LBC, Senator Chiz Escudero, and ICTSI at Philippine Golf Tour.
Among the notable major awardees who will share the limelight with the four winners of the Athlete of the Year honor are pro Mark Caguioa (pro basketball), Bobby Ray Parks (amateur basketball), Tony Lascuna (men’s golf), Dottie Ardina (women’s golf), Hagdang Bato (horse racing), and Jonathan Hernandez (horse racing).
The other major awardees and recipients of citations will be announced in a few days, according to Bancod.