By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
Gilas Pilipinas team manager Alfrancis Chua and the rest of the committee recently expressed their tough journey during their gold medal campaign in the recently concluded Asian Games men’s basketball tournament.
During a press conference last October 9, 2023, held at the PBA office in Libis, Quezon City, Chua, together with PBA commissioner Willie Marcial, PBA chairman Ricky Vargas, and PBA vice chairman Bobby Rosales told into detail what they went through during their preparation phase and the moment they landed in Hangzhou, China.
According to Chua, after the Hangzhou Asian Games committee denied the inclusion of Terrence Romeo, Jason Perkins, Calvin Abueva, and Moala Tautuaa, he told the players and the coaching staff that the easiest way to avoid further damage was to pull out of the tournament.
However, all the players including head coach Tim Cone quickly refused the option and said: “Lalaban po tayo”.
It was a tough start for Gilas Pilipinas as Chua bared that upon arriving at the venue, their request for an immediate practice wasn’t granted and they started thinking to themselves: “Ano ba to?”
PBA chairman Vargas also voiced out that before the tournament started, he was already bracing for the worst as the squad lacked preparation due to the decision made by the Hangzhou Asian Games committee.
Initially, Romeo, Abueva, Perkins, and Tautuaa were the original members of Gilas that were included in the lineup.
However, confusion regarding two lists submitted by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) bared their absence, thus, forcing the Gilas committee to pull them out of the active roster.
Replacing them were Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross, Kevin Alas, Arvin Tolentino, and CJ Perez. Also members of the previous Gilas squad.
“Actually, happy na ako sa number four. Totoo. Pero after we won against China. Sabi ko, let’s go for it,” said Vargas.
Chua added that before they outdueled China, they had to walk almost 100 meters just to get to the playing venue but after they won, their bus was already allowed inside.
“Before naming sila makalaban everday naglalakad kami. The funny thing, when we beat China, pinapasok na yung bus naming,” revealed Chua.
Before taking down Jordan for the gold medal, Gilas had to get over the Chinese hump during the semifinals.
Down by seven points with only 1:36 remaining in the crucial semifinal game, the Gilas Pilipinas men’s national basketball team looked dead in the water and was on the verge of crumbling in front of a hostile crowd.
All thanks to the hero of the game, Justin Brownlee, who gave flashbacks of what Tracy McGrady did to the San Antonio Spurs when he uncorked 13 points in just 33 seconds to give the Houston Rockets the crazy win.
Brownlee carried the whole national team on his back and unleashed eight straight points in 67 seconds, leading Gilas to a stunning 77-76 victory to punch a ticket to the grand finals.
Against Jordan, it was a team effort for the Filipinos as they got their revenge against the team that handed them their only loss during the preliminary phase.
- 1954. 1958. 1962. And now, 2023. Congratulations Gilas Pilipinas for ending the PHL’s 61-year gold medal drought in the Asian Games men’s basketball!
“That’s why I told coach Tim, sabi ko, hindi naman pwedeng umulan ng araw-araw, aaraw din yan. So yung sacrifices, yung hirap, yung pinagdaanan natin, I told him, may magandang kapalit. Sa tulong ng Dyos, nakuha natin yung ginto,” expressed Chua.