Gilas Pilipinas has achieved its goal in the 27th FIBA Asia Championship despite losing the gold medal to the much-taller Iranians.
The Philippine team settled for a silver medal after losing to two-time FIBA champion Iran, 71-85, in the championship game Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The silver medal finish of the Gilas Pilipinas ended the Philippines’ medal drought in the tournament for 28 years.
And the country is looking forward to the FIBA World Basketball Championship in Madrid, Spain, next year. The Philippines along with Iran and third placer South Korea have secured slots in the tournament.
“I’m proud of the players because we achieved what we really wanted to achieve,” Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes told reporters after Sunday’s game. “Iran is really strong and tall, but we didn’t give up. Despite the loss, no one can question their desire.”
But Reyes and Samahan ng Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) President Manny V. Pangilinan admitted there is no immediate plan yet for the world championship. “We will still discuss everything to create a plan about it,” Reyes said.
They also let their players first to celebrate and return to their families.
“Our hard work has finally paid off,” added Reyes. “The team needs to rest for the meantime.”
Besides the 24-nation FIBA World Championship on from August 30 to September 14, 2014, the Philippines is participating in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, on September 19 to October 4, where they are expected to be one of the medal favorites.
“All I know is that we will send the strongest team there,” Reyes said.
Gilas Pilipinas routed Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals (85-58) before shocking Korea, 86-79, in the semifinals to reach the final round.
Naturalized 6’11 American Marcus Douthit sat out the game against Iran with shin injury.
Jayson Castro was named to the Mythical Five of the Asian Championship, along with South Korea’s Kim Mingoo, Lin Chih-Chieh of Chinese Taipei and Iran’s Hamed Hadadi and Oshin Sahakian.
Without Douthit in the finals, Iran exploited the Philippine’s lack of big men with center Haddadi dominating the paint with 29 points and 16 rebounds to win the gold.
Haddadi praised Gilas Pilipinas, saying the team is the best they faced in the tournament because of its consistent three-point shooting, killer fast break plays and trapping defense.
He also admitted that if Douthit had played, the game could turn out differently.
JOSEF T. RAMOS