They tried to ram through the Great Wall of China, but fell short.
Host country China secured a slot for next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by defeating the Philippines, 78 to 67, in the finals of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championships.
The Philippines actually took the initiative until midway of the first quarter, where they lead 15 to 10. After that, China launched a 20 to 6 run bridging the first and second quarters to pull ahead, 30 to 21. The Chinese squad eventually settled for an eleven point lead at the half.
China stretched the lead further, 60 to 44, before the Philippines trimmed it down to 10. Jayson Williams then stole the ball just as China is attempting their final play for the quarter. However, in a sign of things to come, Williams failed to score a basket on the other side of the floor which could have trimmed the deficit to eight going to Q4.
Gilas Pilipinas’ scoreless run in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter enabled China to gain back a 15 point lead, effectively ending whatever hopes they have of emerging as the champions. The Philippines also came up short during the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships where it finished runner-up to Iran.
Unlike in yesterday’s victory over Japan, only Andray Blatche scored in double figures for the Philippines with his 17 points. First-time national players Calvin Abueva and Terrence Romeo scored nine points apiece while Castro and Dondon Hontiveros were limited to eight and six points, respectively.
The game was intensely physical, with Philippines and China combining for a total of 52 team fouls. Nevertheless, Gilas Pilipinas Tab Baldwin repeatedly expressed his frustration with what he deemed as the referees’ unfair officiating.
He was called for a technical three minutes into the third quarter due to excessive complaining. Game commentators and even Pinoy netizens repeatedly highlighted instances of bad calls and questionable no-calls disfavoring the Philippines throughout the match.
The tensions began even before the match started. Yesterday, Pinoy netizens accused China of deliberately scheduling the Philippines’ semifinals game vs Japan late in the night to ensure that it has less time to rest and practice in case they emerge victorious.
Meanwhile, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president and business magnate Manuel V. Pangilinan exposed the host country’s apparent efforts to sabotage Philippines’ campaign. Through his Twitter account, “MVP” related that the electric bus that should take Gilas Pilipinas to the game venue arrived late, giving the team less time for warm up.
Now it has begun. Our Gilas electric bus delayed. Failed to charge daw. Gilas arrival at stadium delayed. Less time for warm up.
— Manny V. Pangilinan (@iamMVP) October 3, 2015
He added that members of the Philippine delegation, including assistant coaches, had a hard time securing tickets for the game. “The Chinese team (were) staying with us at Kempinski Hotel. All other teams excluding Gilas Pilipinas were in another, official hotel. That’s not following the FIBA rules,” he added.
It is easy to understand why emotions were running high. Apart from the high stakes involved, China and Philippines had been engaged in a bitter territorial dispute over Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (or South China Sea) in recent years, with the Aquino government accusing the superpower of aggressiveness in pushing its claims. More recently, China were selected over the Philippines for the right to host the 2019 FIBA basketball World Cup.
The country’s basketball program has achieved tremendous success in the last few years, including back-to-back runner-up finishes in the FIBA Asia Championships and a respectable stint in the 2014 Basketball World Cup. There’s absolutely no reason for us to change course anytime soon, especially since the country remains in contention for one of the three slots during the 2016 Olympics that’s set aside for wildcard qualifiers.
Gilas Pilipinas may have failed to win the championship vs China, but we should still be proud of our team because they gave it all in the face of.biased officiating, a hostile crowd, and various dirty tricks.
I dedicate II Timothy 4:7 for everyone in the squad:
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”