NOT even the failure of getting the services of a number of players prevented Gilas Pilipinas 3.0 from overachieving in its FIBA-Asia Men’s Championship campaign in the Chinese province of Changsha.
Handled by veteran coach Tab Baldwin, the Filipinos played with grit and passion and were on the verge of earning a long-cherished dream of making it back to the Olympics until losing to host China in the gold medal match, 78-67, played before a raucous crowd at the Changsha Social Work Colleges gymnasium.
For a team that wasn’t given a second look of reaching the final – more so of contending for the gold against the mighty host country – the silver medal achievement was already a feat in itself, matching the same finish accomplished by the previous Gilas Pilipinas team under Chot Reyes when the FIBA-Asia meet was held in Manila in 2013.
The national team’s heroics, attained under trying circumstances, were enough to merit Gilas Pilipinas the President’s Award in the coming Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Annual Awards Night.
Past honorees of the same award include the National University Bulldogs, former world champions Rubilen Amit, Dennis Orcollo, and Lee Van Corteza, Ateneo Blue Eagles, taekwondo jin Mikaela Calamba, Philippine women’s bowling trio, to name a few.
The formal event, a traditional practice of the country’s oldest media organization, is set on Feb. 13 at the One Esplanade in Pasay City.
World boxing champions Nonito Donaire Jr. and Donnie Nietes, along with Asian Tour winner and rising golf star Miguel Tabuena will be honored with the prestigious Athlete of the Year award during the affair.
The 2013 batch of Gilas Pilipinas under Reyes, which earned a return trip to the FIBA World Cup in Spain, was also honored with the highest accolade by the PSA two years ago.
The sportswriting fraternity will also hand out major awards and citations, including the gold medal winners during the country’s campaign in the 28th Southeast Asian Games in Singapore.
Likewise to be given out are Executive of the Year, National Sports Association of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award, and Posthumous.
Others to be recognized include the Tony Siddayao Awards for outstanding athletes aged 17 or younger, and the Outstanding Athletes for boys and girls.