Critics, both rightful and bashers, never really gave Gilas Pilipinas a chance against China. Most believed that without Andray Blatche and June Mar Fajardo, it was a lost cause.
Lo and behold, the Philippines pulled the rug from under the defending champions, keeping them at bay. China did overtake the Gilas in the fourth but the Filipinos would not be denied.
Globalport Batang Pier star Terrence Romeo shone brightest, hitting the key shots when they mattered most. Ironically, it was Romeo who committed crucial turnovers towards the end of the third with forced plays. Turns out he was just making things exciting though risky. The final score, 96-87 in favor of the Philippines.
Was it really an upset?
Some call the feat an upset. The reason behind that may be because Gilas was undermanned and that China is the defending champion. But if one truly watched the game, it didn’t appear to be that way.
The Chinese opted to play the physical brand of play, knowing they can bully themselves inside. It backfired with the Gilas Pilipinas coaching staff obviously prepared for that in the FIBA Asia Cup.
The only reason China was able to come back was that of their outside shooting. Had they not, the game would have been a blowout if they continued to force their way in the paint.
If Gilas won by one or three points, perhaps it would be an upset. But the fact is that Gilas played wise basketball and outwitted their bullish opponents. Rather than calling it an upset, it seemed more like a statement win.
Coach Chot Reyes got a big lift from his remaining big men – Christian Standhardinger, Japeth Aguilar and Raymond Almazan. All stood their own against the rough playing Chinese, mixing it up but playing wise basketball.
Big statement win
That win over China meant so much to Gilas and the Filipino people since this was a team that normally ran roughshod over the Philippines. Looking ahead, there are tougher opponents to deal with. Gilas Pilipinas plays Iraq this Friday, August 11.
Reyes and company will likely keep a watchful eye on Iraq and Qatar when both face each other on Aug. 10.