|THE PHL TEAM Gilas emerged silver medalist (FIBA photo)|
MANILA — Gilas Pilipinas leaned on veteran Dondon Hontiveros to score a hard-earned 81-70 victory against Japan late Friday night to enter the finals of the 2015 FIBA Asia championship in Changsha, China but ended up as silver medalist due to a heart-breaking loss the following day to host China.
With the win, China’s basketball team got a slot in the Rio Olympic Games in Brazil in August 2016.
The Philippines has still a chance though to join the Rio basketball games but the hard way through another qualifying tourney in July where third placer Iran and fourth placer Japan and several other national teams will also compete.
Putting up with questionable referee calls, non-calls, and rough play, the Philippine national basketball team yielded a potentially contestable championship game to the Chinese team in the finals of the FIBA Asia championship, 67-78 , before a boisterous hometown crowd Saturday night in Changsha, China.
Before the Philippines-China duel, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manny V. Pangilinan lashed out in various tweets at the organizers of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship for the problems the Philippine national men’s basketball team experienced ahead of its gold medal match against host China.
Among the problems cited were their delayed arrival to the venue due to a faulty bus, delay in setting up its ring and difficulty of the Filipino delegation securing tickets.
In another tweet, Pangilinan stated that the “Chinese team staying w/ us at Kempinski Hotel. All other teams inc. Gilas in another, official hotel. That’s not following the Fiba rules.”
Before MVP’s tweets, there was also some outrage when the organizers moved the Gilas Pilipinas’ semifinal game against Japan last Friday from 9:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. in a move many fans believe as a way of the hosts to gain undue advantage come the final match, Interaksyon.com reported.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, Malacañang Palace congratulated Gilas Pilipinas for its silver medal finish, the same standing as in the 2013 tourney, noting its consistent display of the “Philippine brand of selfless, creative, passionate basketball.”
Meanwhile, Filipino player Jayson Castro was voted again as Asia’s best point guard.
The spitfire player was again named to FIBA Asia’s Mythical Five after the Philippines’ title clash against eventual champion China on Saturday. China won 78-67.
Castro was also chosen as Asia’s top point guard in the 2013 edition of FIBA Asia where Gilas also finished second.
Other players on this year’s Mythical Five are Iran’s Samad Bahrami, and China’s Zhou Qui, Ailun Guo and Jianlian Yi.
Yi was named Most Valuable Player (MVP).
Malacanang issued a statement on the team’s achievement through Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
“We join the Filipino people in celebrating Gilas Pilipinas’ silver medal finish in the 2015 FIBA Asia Basketball Championships,” according to the Malacanang statement.
“Throughout this tournament, our team displayed the Philippine brand of selfless, creative, passionate basketball, fuelled by the warm and vocal support of Filipinos at home and abroad. Our people have shown the world what it means to be Filipino, and this serves as inspiration for all of us to work even harder in our respective endeavors, fulfill our individual potentials, and secure the national pride we have reclaimed, one success after another, in varying fields,” Malalcanang added.
“We congratulate our players, our coaches, and supporters, and we encourage all our countrymen to continue their support for our athletes in general, and for Gilas Pilipinas in particular, as they continue to pursue our collective basketball dream of landing a berth in the 2016 Olympics,” the Palace stated.
With their superior height and better shooting, the Chinese squad managed to maintain a consistent gap starting from the second quarter, ABS-CBN reported, adding the Chinese went 9-of-24 from the three-point line and made the most of their free throw attempts by sinking 21 out of 33 charities.
Ailun Guo had 19 points for China, which also got 16 markers from Qi Zhuo.
Andray Blatche paced the Filipinos with 17 points and five rebounds. He is the only Gilas player who managed to tally a double-digit output.
Calvin Abueva and Terrence Romeo had nine points each for the blue shirts, while Jayson Castro was held to only eight markers.
The Filipinos had a strong start, engaging China in a tight game during the first quarter, ABS-CBN reported. But the Chinese had a breakout second quarter while holding Gilas to merely 16 points for a 46-35 halftime lead.
Blatche and Castro tried to rally the Philippine side in the third quarter, but could get no closer than five points.
China eventually secured the title and the automatic qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Prior the game, the host country apparently used dirty tactics to put the Philippine team in a disadvantage.
The Filipinos’ travel to the stadium was delayed after their electric coaster did not arrive on time due to lack of charge.
Upon arriving at the contest venue, the Chinese utility men were seen still fixing Gilas’ ring while China was already doing their practice shots at the other end, robbing Gilas of precious practice time.
Former champion Iran settled for the bronze medal by beating Japan, 68-63.
Dubbed as Cebuano Hotshot, Hontiveros had his best game in the tournament after finishing with 18 points marked with glittering 6-of-9 shooting from big arc.
Andray Blatche sizzled anew with double-double performance after finishing 22 points and 13 rebounds while Jayson Castro remains consistent with 20 points and seven boards.
It was the second win of the Philippines against Japan which the Gilas defeated in the second round.
With the victory, the Filipinos inched one win away from clinching an elusive Rio Olympics slot.
The Philippines, however, have to hurdle host team China which remains undefeated after ousting defending champion Iran, 70-57, in other semifinals game.