Gilas vs Senegal: 8 things we learned at the 2014 World Cup


Jimmy Alapag celebrates the victory against Senegal at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup (photo: FIBA.COM)
Jimmy Alapag celebrates the victory against Senegal at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup (photo: FIBA.COM)

The Philippines its shot at a championship in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup and Gilas Pilpinas players may have gone home but the four losing matches and the last game against Senegal made us realize a number of things and taught us a few important lessons.

1. Team Pilipinas can hold its own against the best basketball teams in the world

The Philippine Basketball Team came into the 2014 FIBA World Cup as a massive underdog, expecting to be eliminated really easily by the other countries.

June Mar Fajardo guarding against Gorgui Dieng Gilas vs Senegal 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup (FIBA.COM)
June Mar Fajardo guarding against Gorgui Dieng Gilas vs Senegal 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup (FIBA.COM)

Team Gilas, however, showed that this is not so, with each game becoming an intense competition that kept their opponent on the alert. It was not just their opponents – even other countries acknowledged this.

Fans from host country, Spain, could be seen wearing Gilas Pilipinas jerseys and t-shirts. During the games, fans from other teams in Group B stay to watch Team Pilipinas, rooting for them and cheering them on.

The team’s performance also gained the respect and admiration of FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann, who expects to see the Philippines in the 2019 World Cup.

Perhaps the world just loves underdogs, but with the signature battlecry of PUSO, Gilas Pilipinas won the admiration of basketball-loving people around the world.

2. Is Philippines ready for the 2019 FIBA World Cup?

Coach Tito Eduque instructing his players Abet Guidaben (#9), Yoyong Martirez, Tembong Melencio (#6), and Robert Jaworski (#7) Philippine Basketball Team 1974 FIBA World Championship
Coach Tito Eduque instructing his players Abet Guidaben (#9), Yoyong Martirez, Tembong Melencio (#6), and Robert Jaworski (#7) Philippine Basketball Team 1974 FIBA World Championship

Against the rest of the world the Philippine Basketball Team is very rusty, and it showed in recent FIBA games – but if there’s anything that the Philippines vs Senegal games proved, it showed that we do have this potential, and we need to train hard to prepare for the next round.

We cannot rest on our laurels because we do not have any – we need to earn them.

Aside from having a good team composed of the strongest players, the Philippines should try to host more international sporting events.

Will Team Pilipinas’ small display of courage will be enough to convince FIBA to allow the Philippines to host the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2019?

The last time the Philippines hosted the FIBA Basketball Games was in 1978, that fated time 36 years ago at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum and the Araneta Coliseum.

As host country The Philippines automatically gets into the semifinals. The Philippine Basketball Team never won a single game, loosing all 7 matches ending in 8th place.

Philippine Arena, the largest indoor arena in the world (Wikipedia)
Philippine Arena, the largest indoor arena in the world (Wikipedia)

Aside from the Rizal Memorial Coliseum and the Araneta Coliseum we now have the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena and, more recently, the Philippine Arena, the largest indoor arena in the world.

FIBA 2019: The Philippines is ready for you.

3. You do not always need height to play a good game of basketball

David and Goliath: Andray Blatche & Jimmy Alapag at the Gilas vs Senegal game 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup (photo: FIBA.COM)
David and Goliath: Andray Blatche & Jimmy Alapag at the Gilas vs Senegal game 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup (photo: FIBA.COM)

The Philippine Basketball Team has always been vertically challenged. This plays a huge factor in a game like basketball, where height is always an advantage.

But what team Pilipinas lacked in height they more than made up for in spirit, determination, and puso (heart).

Jimmy Alapag, the team captain, is a prime example. At 5 feet 9 inches tall he may be slightly higher than the average Filipino male, but he is still a David compared to Goliaths like Andray Blatche (6 ft 11 in) and Junmar Fajardo (6 ft 10 in). In the entire team he is only taller LA Tenorio, who stands two inches shorter.

However the pressure must be great, with the entire team relying on him to see them through the tough times. He has to be the coach on the hardwood floor, the glue that keeps the team together. He has to rally his troops to battle, and keep them grounded when things are going smoothly.

Gilas Pilipinas head coach Vincent "Chot" Reyes Philippines vs Senegal 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup (FIBA.COM)
Gilas Pilipinas head coach Vincent “Chot” Reyes Philippines vs Senegal 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup (FIBA.COM)

It’s not just his leadership – the numbers speak for themselves. Throughout the FIBA 2014 World Cup he managed to score an average of 9.2 points per game, coming in second to Andray Blatche, the team’s top scorer at a monstorous 21.2 average points per game.

He holds the top number for assists at 3.2 per game.

Despite losing key player Andray Blatche at 1:55 during the overtime of the Philippines vs Senegal game, he managed to land two free throws, cementing the team’s victory.

Strategy also played a key role in Team Pilipinas’ victory. With head coach Vincent “Chot” Reyes at the helm, team was able to synergize and perform well.

There are – as will always be – gaps in every game. There is no perfect game, just like there is no perfect team, but the victory against Senegal showed that great things can be accomplished by working together as a team.

4. Basketball is still, and always willl be, the national sport of the Philippines

Gilas fans dressed in Senegal costumes (Dennis Gasgonia @dggasgo on Twitter)
Gilas fans dressed in Senegal costumes (Dennis Gasgonia @dggasgo on Twitter)

There is no other sport that Filipinos love more than basketball. From the time that the Americans came to the South East Asian island that known as the Philippines and introduced this game involving a ball and a hoop invented by a certain Canadian-American named James Naismith, the pacific islanders embraced the game wholeheartedly.

The first few games must have been very funny, as the average pacific islanders would be veritcally challenged compared to the average caucasian. Perhaps it was this challenge that entraced us Filipinos, given our nature to be palaban (loves a good challenge).

Although basketball remained popular thanks to PBA (Philippine Baskeball Association) and UAAP (University Athletic Association of the Philippines), the last two decades has shown increased interest in other sports. Much of this is thanks to the superstardom of key players and teams, most notably Manny Pacquiao for boxing and The Philippine Azkals for football.

The Gilas vs Senegal game gave basketball a much needed reboot, firing up the embers within our souls, showing what five not-too-tall dudes in a court can do with a ball against the best in the world.

They say love needs to reason, and this love affair between Filipinos and basketball, is undying.

5. It ain’t over ’til it’s over

LA Tenorio rests on the hardwood floor Gilas vs Senegal 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup (FIBA.COM)
LA Tenorio rests on the hardwood floor Gilas vs Senegal 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup (FIBA.COM)

Even before the Gilas vs Senegal, matches involving Team Philippines were always highly interesting.

Like the game against Croatia which Team Gilas managed to push into overtime, or the Gilas vs Argentina game to which the team only lost by four points.

Even the game against Greece, which Gilas managed to put into upset alert. A major accomplishment, considering Greece is the the strongest of the group with zero losses.

Andray Blatche landing a slam dunk Philippines vs Puerto Rico 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup (FIBA.COM)
Andray Blatche landing a slam dunk Philippines vs Puerto Rico 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup (FIBA.COM)

Then there was Gilas vs Puerto Rico, the make-or-break game, to which the Philippine Team suffered a heart-breaking defeat by four points, despite having a strong lead in the first and second quarter.

So when it was time for Gilas vs Senegal, everyone was on the edge. The intense match went into overtime, and the rest was history.

6. One win can be enough

June Mar Fajardo Gilas vs Senegal 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup (FIBA.COM)
June Mar Fajardo Gilas vs Senegal 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup (FIBA.COM)

Call it mababaw (shallow) if you will, but we have a penchant for celebrating the smallest victories. The Gilas vs Senegal victory, however, was intesified, perhaps due to the fact that we lost all four victories prior to it.

When was the last time the Philippine Basketball Team won a FIBA World Cup game? 36 years ago all the way back in the 1959 FIBA World Championship, where the team ended up in eigth place after defeating Uruguay in the second round at 78-70.

After four games there there are those who started to lose hope – maybe it was not meant to be, maybe this was not our time, maybe we have to wait another five years for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Maybe this, maybe that.

So when Gilas emerged victorious against Senegal, not only did they prove the disbelievers wrong – it was all they needed to go home a winner.

Sometimes, it’s not about what you win but how you win.

We joined FIBA in 1936, eventually placing fifth worldwide in the best finish by an Asian team in Olympic basketball history, being the only other team aside from Canada to lose only once in the tournament.

7. Sports brings unity among Filipinos

Hero: Jimmy Alapag clasps hands with fans Gilas vs Senegal 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup (FIBA.COM)
Hero: Jimmy Alapag clasps hands with fans Gilas vs Senegal 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup (FIBA.COM)

The Gilas vs Senegal game happened at a time of chaos, amidst all the shocking and alarming news of increased traffic, port congestion, kidnappings, and general increase in crime that has been hitting the country lately.

We saw that although we may be fragmented internally, the Filipino sense of nationalism and pride is strong when faced with a common enemy – or in this case, a common goal.

8. You don’t need a trophy to win the people’s hearts

Perhaps to a great majority of the rest of the world, the Philippines is nothing more than another country that made it to FIBA games, and that is alright – after all, they have their own country to cheer for.

However for us Filipinos, every game involving Team Gilas is very closely watched, cheered, and cried upon. All of the emotion, the joy, anger, and frustrations that the team experienced in Spain is carried over for miles – all the way back home.

When they are happy, we are happy. When they are angry or frustrated, so are we. Every loss or victory counts, so when they eventually win – even if it were just once, even if it were at the very last moment, it was enough to bring glory and emerge a champion in the people’s hearts.

#PUSO: Filipinos watching the game in Seville put their hands to their hearts while singing the Philippine National Anthem (FIBA.COM)
#PUSO: Filipinos watching the game in Seville put their hands to their hearts while singing the Philippine National Anthem (FIBA.COM)

To the Senegal National Basketball Team: Good luck at the 2014 FIBA World Cup and please, make it to the Finals!

To Team Gilas Pilipinas: ASTIG kayo! #PUSO


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