By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
Well done, Gilas Pilipinas youngsters. History has been made.
After years of heartbreak brought by the South Korean national team to the Filipino youth at the FIBA level, Gilas Pilipinas finally broke the long curse and scored their first-ever win against the Southeast Asian powerhouse last September 22, 2023, at the FIBA Under-16 Asian Championship quarterfinals held at the Al-Gharafa Indoor Hall in Doha, Qatar.
Gilas had enough and played one of their best basketball performances of the year, stunning South Korea, 95-71, to advance to the tournament semifinals and boost their chances of booking a ticket to the FIBA U-17 World Cup next year in Turkey.
In retrospect, the Gilas boys never won against South Korea in the past five years in any FIBA-sanctioned youth basketball tournament.
Seeking to rewrite history and turn the tables, the revamped Gilas U-16 team dominated the SoKors and never gave them a room to breathe from the get-go.
The Filipinos immediately waxed hot and executed their offensive schemes to perfection to open a double-digit cushion after 10 minutes of quarterfinal action.
Despite South Korea’s consecutive baskets down the block, Gilas flipped the switch and stepped on the gas pedal in the remaining seven minutes of the second frame to double their lead before the half time buzzer sounded.
South Korea attempted to neutralize Gilas’ shooting by opting for a man-to-man zone defense but the Filipinos just can’t miss and went unconscious from the shooting field the whole second half.
Joaquin Ludovice was a man on a mission for the Gilas national team after top-scoring his squad with 25 big points built from seven drilled three-pointers.
Backstopping Ludovice was Kurt Velasquez who contributed 17 points while Bonn Daja added 13 markers and 10 rebounds.
Kieffer Alas, Gilas’ main man in their first three games, tallied another double-double performance and finished the game with 11 points and 13 boards.
With the win, the Gilas squad will seek to take down Japan in the semifinal round to formalize their seat in the 2024 U-17 FIBA World Cup.