SEVILLE, SPAIN - Jimmy Alapag made five second-half three-pointers on Monday night (Tuesday morning, Manila time) that put Gilas Pilipinas in position to pull off an epic victory over Argentina, but there was only one thing he could ever think about at the end of the match.
"I needed one more (three-pointer for us to win)," the pint-sized point guard said.
The 81-85 loss to Argentina put a bitter-sweet ending to a night that would've served as a fitting swan song for the veteran point guard, who announced before going with Gilas to Spain that the Fiba World Cup would be the last for his international career.
At 36, Alapag had all the intention to end his Gilas career with a bang, stepping up in the second half and sending chills down the spine of the world's No. 3-ranked team and its spirited army of travelling fans with one three-pointer after another from every conceivable angle.
But down two points at 81-83 with 24.4 seconds left, Gilas needed one more three-pointer to pull off the mother of all upsets and coach Chot Reyes naturally went to Alapag.
"The first option was really Jimmy going for the three-point shot," said Reyes later. "Ranidel (De Ocampo) was cramping up and as you know, Andray (Blatche) wasn't 100 percent. We were not going for overtime, we were going for the win right there."
Alapag, however, couldn't break free from the clutches of Facundo Campazzo in the Gilas' final play and gave the ball up to backcourt mate Jayson Castro, who committed a costly double-touch violation after his three-point try was correctly anticipated by Pablo Prigioni.
Two free throws by NBA veteran Andres Nocioni sealed Gilas' third loss in the tournament and second by a margin of four points or less, coming on the heels of a 78-81 overtime loss to world No. 16 Croatia.
"We competed all the way and gave ourselves a chance," said Alapag, who finished with 15 points, two rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes.
"For me, this is my last international tournament and I know I'll never be in another world tournament, so every night we step on the floor we want to make our country proud with our effort and our style of play, and I think we did that," he added.
Despite the loss, Alapag said the loss is a step in the right direction for Philippine basketball - a building block, he said, that he hopes could lead to bigger things for the national team program.
"Again, you need to have building blocks. We've been out of the world stage for a long time but no matter what happens in the next games, I'm really confident that the Philippines will build on this. We will be back on this stage soon. We're gonna learn from this and be back in this tournament."
"No. 3 team in the world, one possession ... If you had told me that on the bus on the way to here, I would've taken that as a compliment."
Alapag is set to bow out at the end of the Spain showpiece as he had given up his spot in the Gilas lineup to Jared Dillinger for the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
Not even Monday's performance could make him reconsider his decision, saying he does not want to be a hindrance to other guards coming up in the national team program.
It's time to give way, he said.
"I think it's time, it's time. I've spoken to coach about it. I think for our country to progress, we need players to get to that level in the world stage and go to the Olympics. We need to have the other guys get the experience and keep the progression of ou country going,' said the former PBA MVP.
"I won't exchange my national team experience for anything but it's time for the other guys to step in and take the reins."
And would he prefer to be remembered for this inspiring performance against Argentina, he was asked.
"I would much rather be remembered for beating Argentina," he said smiling.