THERE were bigger things to focus on, cried national team coach Chot Reyes, and it would be best to leave the Saturday-night shocker against Chinese Taipei behind.
This was in the postgame interview at the MOA last Saturday.
Reyes didn’t have to be asked what he thought sparked their disastrous foldup in the fourth quarter.
“I should have done a better job rotating and pacing our players,” Reyes explained. “We spent a lot of energy in our chase, we didn’t have anything in the end.”
He also didn’t find the need for opinions.
“That’s the story of the ballgame,” he remarked with finality.
* * *
Not to say coach Reyes didn’t know what exactly hit them. But there were subsequent suggestions regarding vital intangibles that led the Taiwanese team, given up for lost after being buried by 13 points at the end of the third quarter, whooping it up and singing all the way to the showers.
It would be best to learn from mistakes.
So next comes the question on whether or not the national team coach honestly knew where they had fatally faltered.
Gilas Pilipinas didn’t merely run out of wind in the final chase.
The Nationals, to repeat, were pitifully reduced to sitting ducks by fleet-footed phantom shooters, who would hardly dribble but instead snap a blinding leap, before launching an impeccable flip at the peak of a jump.
* * *
“Give them the dribble, but not the shot,” former Philippine national team mentor Rajko Toroman was overheard as saying during a game break at Mall of Asia Arena on the eve of the Philippines-Chinese Taipei match.
This could mean Toroman was wholly aware of the perils of running against these phantom fleetfoots, the kind that make it a happy habit to take off and shoot from the so-called wrong leg, thus making them practically unreachable.
He didn’t say it, but Toroman obviously meant these phantom shooters, descended from the legendary Shin Dong-pa of South Korea, could be contained—but only by those who are fully aware of their existence and their secrets.
* * *
“Never heard, don’t know a thing about that,” cried coach Tim Cone during a game break in the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games where he called the shots for the Philippine team.
Cone was being asked whether or not he was aware of these “wrong-foot wonders.”
“Never can you win a game on a wrong foot,” remarked former national coach Joe Lipa, when asked later about the wonder scorers, mainstays in the dominant Chinese national squad.
“I know, I know about it, I know about them,” Reyes admitted to this reporter in a random talk over a decade ago.
* * *
Reyes was about to leave with the national team for an international tournament. He didn’t find the need to manifest interest about the need to at least study about the “wrong-foots.”
It’s a pity because Gilas Pilipinas is bound to encounter more of these incredible deadshots of the Taiwanese kind as they continue their perilous voyage through the Fiba Asia Championship.
Of course, it’s all too late now even if they suddenly realized the need to seek remedies.
It’s never simple. The near-magical execution can be mastered only after years of painful discipline in Oriental martial arts.
Loads and loads of football would also help.