The FIBA Asia Championship game has just ended. China walks away the champion, and takes the guaranteed spot in the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
For basketball fans, and fans of both China and the Philippines, the gold medal game for the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship was highly anticipated by both sides. However, it’s difficult to like the game because it failed to live up to its hype.
As a Filipino, and a fan of the game of basketball, there was so much to dislike from what we all saw, especially towards the players of our national team. There were so many missed calls, non-calls, and bad calls. It’s extremely hard to say that the officiating was fair, because it seemed like even the simplest of moves, such as a light touch in an attempt to steal the ball, led to a foul call. I’m sure we shouted, screamed and jeered at the referees for how they handled the game. All the calls seemed to be in favor of the host nation, China. And any observer would say that, because everything was questionable.
I am not trying to take anything away from Gilas Pilipinas because despite the unfavorable situation they were in, our team fought valiantly. They were at a size disadvantage, youth was not on their side, and most especially, the calls were not in their favor. They continued to play basketball, they continued to play hard, they had lots and lots of heart, but sadly they came up short.
Despite leading early in the first quarter, the foul calls came in quick succession, and so we lost the lead. After a number of runs in the succeeding quarters, Gilas was never able to regain the lead again. But certain players were able to show signs of brilliance that energized the rest of the team, even for just a short period, like Dondon Hontiveros, Jayson Castro, Calvin Abueva, and our naturalized big man, Andray Blatche.
Even after overcoming a late finish to their semi-final game against Japan, arriving late to the venue, and having less time to warm up (insert conspiracy theories here), the team still showed up to play hard and go for gold. And they did just that, just like what they did when the Philippines hosted the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship where they placed second to Iran.
China did play a great overall game. They were able to use their size in the paint, in blocks, and in rebounds. After China beat Iran in their semi-final match, the Filipinos knew they were in for a tough match against the home team. And China made it difficult for the Filipinos, frustrating them at times, exposing the size mismatches at different positions, and knocking down those long range shots. They were also able to go to the charity stripe more than the Philippines, and that made a lot of difference. During the stretch of the game, the Chinese players, led by Yi Jianlian, maximized their size and athleticism, as they walk away with the Gold.
As for now, Gilas are not out just yet. There is still a chance for them to make it to Rio, for they are now part of the Olympic Qualifying tournaments along with Japan and Iran as the representatives of FIBA Asia. They will be facing powerhouse teams from AfroBasket 2015 (Senegal, Angola, and Tunisia); EuroBasket 2015 (France, Serbia, Greece, Italy, and Czech Republic); 2015 FIBA Americas Championship (Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico), and New Zealand from the 2015 FIBA Oceania Championship. These 18 countries will be placed in three different qualifying tournaments, and the winners of each tourney will be going to the Rio Olympics.
There’s still a chance. Gilas Pilipinas players have to hold their heads up high, as they walk away with the Silver medal and start preparing for the qualifying tournaments.
It’s hard, but stand strong Gilas Pilipinas. Your country and your countrymen are proud of you!
Congratulations to Jayson Castro for being named as part of the Mythical 5 for the entire tournament!
Laban Pilipinas! PUSO!