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“Never Say Die” Gilas Pilipinas

Jayson Castro of Gilas Pilipinas scores off three Taiwanese defenders during their FIBA Asia Championship game Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena. Taiwan won, 84-79. (Tony Pionilla)

By Brian Yalung

Last Saturday, the Philippines received a familiar lesson that maybe most basketball junkies have witnessed even on Philippine soil – the game is not over until the final buzzer sounds.

Such was the plight of the Gilas Pilipinas squad which bowed to Chinese Taipei, 84-79, after unleashing an explosive third quarter which saw Gilas lead by as much as 13 points.

Come the fourth quarter, it seemed as if the team won already – a big no-no in basketball especially considering that this is an international event where the best of the best are playing.

And so with the belief that the game was in the bag, the fire and intensity sort of left Gilas Pilipinas, guns gone cold while Chinese Taipei waxed hot until the final buzzer.

The aftermath, a heartbreaking loss which could have given the Philippines a better record going into the second round of the 2013 FIBA Asia basketball championships.

It was indeed a bitter pill to swallow but the bright side of it all is that the loss does come with advantages.

For one, losing this early in the tournament can expose flaws that need improvement within the team which should not be that costly considering that win or lose, the team had already qualified for the second round.

Rather than sulk however, it would be best for Gilas Pilipinas to take into consideration the words of wisdom of two PBA legends who have been there, former Senator and coach Robert Jaworski and Ricardo “The Quick Brown Fox” Brown.

Sen. Jaworski reiterated that the team should “Never Say Die”, the familiar catch phrase that he has instilled when he was still on active duty with Ginebra San Miguel. Apparently Chinese Taipei did just that and the result was obvious.

After their huge win over Japan, Jaworksi cautioned the Philippine players to be ready for bigger battles ahead, apparently referring to the likes of Qatar, Hong Kong and maybe China, Korea or even Iran.

For his part after the loss last Saturday, Ricky Brown (through his Facebook account)

“Don’t let the loss to Taipei discourage anyone just yet. In every Championship/Tournament run, there is that ONE game that challenges a team’s character and lets them know ‘this will not be easy’. Sometimes it’s a close win, in this case a tough loss. “

“My prediction and expectation: Gilas Pilipinas smokes the next team.”

And so they did, after Gilas Pilipinas pummeled Japan, 90-71, something that one could almost feel coming after that painful and forgettable loss.

“Championship teams have great character and a team’s character is always brought to the forefront in times of adversity. Great job, Team Pilipinas! And I am not surprised at all. One game at a time”, Ricky Brown said after learning of the bounce back victory.

But the buck doesn’t stop there as the road to the World Championships just became tougher for coach Chot and his boys.

Should Gilas Pilipinas hurdle all its opponents after the second round, a possible showdown against China looms. And if they do defeat China, a semifinal showdown with tournament favorite Iran will most likely ensue, probably the most critical one that could make or break Gilas Pilipinas’ aspirations of making it to the world championships.

The following days should be interesting for team Gilas. Either way however, it would be best to heed the advice of Sen. Jaworski and the Quick Brown Fox: take it one game at a time and “Never Say Die”.

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