Monday, August 05, 2013

Fair Play: That painful loss to Chinese Taipei

CRAP and double crap. That was my reaction after seeing Gilas Pilipinas lose that 13-point lead in the fourth quarter to Chinese Taipei in the Fiba Asia Championships last Saturday night.

Like countless others, I’ve been looking forward to that match ever since organizers of the Jones Cup--an annual tournament held in Taiwan--unceremoniously shoved the door on Gilas after that political turmoil over the death of a fisherman.

Organizers said they couldn’t assure the safety of Gilas, or its supporters, what with the prevailing tension.

Yeah, right!

And how was the crowd in that game against Chinese Taipei? Solidly pro-Pinoy of course, but, despite being, there was no security risks since Pinoy fans are not known for being that rowdy against visitors. Heck, in the middle of a run by Chinese Taipei, a couple of Taiwanese fans were seen jumping for joy amidst a row of Pinoy fans. See, they felt safe enough to go out, which is something that couldn’t be said of our kababayans in their country.

Man, it was a tough loss. Led by Lin Chih-Chieh, who’s been called by some the James Yap of Taiwan (Why? Does he have a Kris Aquino?), the Taiwanese erased a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter with a 17-4 run, silencing the 20,000-strong crowd at the MOA Arena.

It was hard not to hate the Taiwanese players too, what with the way they kept baiting for fouls and the referees falling for it hook, line and sinker everytime. At one point, Marc Pingris, whistled for a foul after a flop by Tseng Wen-Ting, mimicked the Taiwanese flop, and earned a loud cheer from the crowd.

Coach Chot Reyes, who took the blame for the loss, knew that a lot of Pinoys were really looking forward to us beating Taiwan and that loss, especially after we took the lead, was more than disappointing.

“First of all, I want to apologize to our countrymen in Taiwan,” Reyes told InterAKTV after the match. “We really wanted to dedicate this game to them because I know they have been victims of a lot of abuse.”

Though disappointing, the loss didn’t eliminate us as we are not yet in the knockout stage of the competition, though it has made the path to the championship quite tricky.

After the first Group Stage, there’s a second Group Stage, where the top three teams in Group A will face the top three teams in Group B. That’s the same with Group C and D. They will retain their records--but wins and losses against the eliminated teams will be stricken off--so the Philippines will be 1-1 when it takes on Japan, Qatar and Hong Kong in the next round. After that is the crossover quarterfinals, and since it’s a given that it’s a 1-2-3 finish by Iran, Korea and China in the other group, we could be facing China in the quarterfinals, if we end up second in our group.

But I like what team captain Jimmy Alapag said after that loss and a potential early match-up with China.

“You know at this point, you need to cross paths with those teams one way or another either in the finals or quarterfinals or the semis. So it’s going to be important for us to stay together and improve our game,” Alapag told InterAKTV.
Now that’s the right attitude.

As for me, I hope we meet Chinese Taipei again.

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