Regardless of the outcome, Australia just sent Gilas Pilipinas to the worst end.

Maybe, it’s not enough for our team to get nailed in last place.

We had to be one-half of a bookend.

Lemme explain.

So… I won’t explain how discriminatory was one another when the Aussies fought Gilas Pilipinas back in July 2018 for the FIBA World Cup qualifiers. Man, that move set our brand of basketball to near-ice age levels. From that point on, we thought of ourselves as Australia’s rival... and it's funny... in a non-haha manner. 

Basically, we were lodged to the 32nd place due to a -147 “winning” margin and Australia would have scored the 2019 FIBA World Cup title if they won their double-overtime match against Spain.

All of a sudden, I remember the events that unfolded when Gilas battled Australia that resulted in that melee. Apart from the flying fists and the flying chairs, we were pissed because the Australians were getting the calls and making their shots. At that point, Gilas was down by 31 points – a lead we weren’t used to especially with the current Gilas Pilipinas incarnation. We played with "heart"… but we also played with arrogance… and it came to the point that the usually calm and collected peeps like Jayson Castro, Japeth Aguilar, Matthew Wright, and Andray Blatche were in fist-fighting mode.    

In some ways, I guess this is what happens when you switch “puso” (heart) with “utak” (brain). Your heart says everything is possible when you believe it but your brain says, “man, there are a lot of bigger and better teams in the World Cup”.

I got another point Chot Reyes’ team was trying to make whenever they shout “puso” after every battle. We qualified for the 2014 FIBA World Cup for the first time since 1978 in 2013 against Korea despite the fact that we were down in halftime, we were undersized and our naturalized import, Marcus Douthit – sat the entire second half because of injury. Our brains back then would have said that Korea had our number… and they have all the advantages in the world.

And yet… we F’N won.

We carried over that feat in Spain as the plucky underdogs that lost their games against the superpowers… in a wrongful manner. Again, they played with their hearts more than over-thinking their enemies’ advantages.

I would have wanted a Gabe Norwood poster to whoever Luis Scola-figure that blocks his way.  

Puso had CJ Perez going cold-blooded and attacking the defense of the Italians, the Serbs, and the Angolans despite the fact that he’s just a guard and a rookie over tall and experienced foes.

So yeah, at least we scored participation as 2023 FIBA World Cup hosts and hopefully, we have enough time to get our hearts back in basketball. I still think online trolls need to shut up about how we are undersized… or how our basketball is caveman-ish as compared to the powerhouses. I guess this is a time for self-reflection and returning to why basketball stuck as our main sport.

The SEA Games is an easy enough challenge to get us back from our basketball slump. Teams like Thailand and Malaysia and Indonesia have in some ways “grown-up” and bent of dislodging the Philippines as the top dogs in Southeast Asia but right about now, I guess we need these games more than they could imagine.



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