Gilas Pilipinas has achieved its goal despite its runnerup finish in the 27th FIBA Asia Championship.
The Philippine team lost to Iran, 71-85, in the championship game on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The silver medal finish ended the Philippines’ 28-year medal drought in the tournament.
Now 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 Pangilinan admitted there is no immediate plan yet for the world championship. “We will still discuss everything to create a plan about it.”
They will let their players 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 from August 30 to September 14, 2014, the Philippines is participating in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, September 19 to October 4, where they are expected to be one of the medal favorites.
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 a 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 outcome could have been different.
Government officials heaped praises on Gilas Pilipinas for its impressive performance.
A resolution commending the team was filed at the House of Representatives, while President Benigno Aquino 3rd said the team made Filipinos proud.
“Gilas Pilipinas showcased athletic excellence, determination, teamwork, discipline and sportsmanship that not only earned the country a silver medal and a slot at the World Cup in Span but also brought pride for the grateful Filipino fans,” the resolution filed by several lawmakers said.
They added that the Filipino players showed “true grit and heart” to demolish their rivals.
The President said that he was impressed with the national team.
Gilas Pilipinas, he said, got the silver medal despite the fact that “we are not yet blessed with the height necessary to become a dominant power in the world of basketball.”
”But up to the last few seconds, they never gave up. They showed the respect that was earned by their playing in previous games. They were not treated as an unworthy opponent by our opponents. So give the Filipino the right environment and you will be surprised at what he will deliver,” the President added.
With Reports From Catherine Valente and Llanesca Panti