Out of nowhere, the Philippine youth basketball team found itself with pride and strong contention for the gold medal after it pulled a historic upset over the mighty China in the FIBA Asia Under-16 Championship in Jakarta, Indonesia.
But how important is Batang Gilas’ victory over the highly favorite China?
It was the first-ever victory by any Philippine squad fighting for a spot in the World Championship or Olympic level since the 1986 Asian Basketball Confederation (now known as FIBA Asia Championship).
Last year, Gilas Pilipinas won over China behind the heroics of Paul Lee in the FIBA Asia Cup, an invitational event, but the Philippines lost against the host squad in the recent FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, denying our national team outright entry in the Olympics.
Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin heaped praises on Batang Gilas coach Michael Oliver for such accomplishment.
“I’m very happy for Coach Mike and his team and very proud of their effort,” Mr. Baldwin toldBusinessWorld in an interview. “I hope they can push through now and win the gold medal.”
For his part, Mr. Oliver believes the victory was somehow special, but the team needs to refocus on the bigger task at hand.
“I’m happy we won, but we haven’t achieved anything yet,” added Mr. Oliver. This win showed what character of the team has.”
Watch the final two minutes between the Philippines and China.
Batang Gilas played China with three players having physical difficulties.
Jonas Tibayan had a sprained knee and played in pain so as Gian Mamuyac and Harvey Pagsanjan, who had sprained ankle injuries. Worse, lead guard Samjosef Belangel experienced allergies.
But Batang Gilas gamely fought against its taller rivals and won, 78-72.
“You wouldn’t believe we’ll beat those giants,” Batang Gilas Team Manager Andrew Teh said.