One Game At A Time

Lessons from a won game

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“HALLYU” is Korean for the wave of pop culture and entertainment from The Land of the Morning Calm that has penetrated many Asian countries.

From television dramas that are translated into local lingo to groups of young men and women that sing and dance in synch, Korean entertainment competes against fare from other countries for the attention of young Asians, including Filipinos.

The entertainment on the Fiba Asia basketball court last Saturday unfortunately did not come from a game crew of young Korean men. It was the home squad that finally slew the dragons and phantoms of heart-breaking losses to South Korea in many tournaments in the past, notably the Asian Games in 2002 and the Fiba Asia tournament two years ago.

The Filipinos held on in the end game this time around to win, 86-79, and earn a ticket to the Fiba World Cup in Spain next year.

In the past, deadly Korean snipers would unload seemingly far-out three-pointers and slice down Philippine team leads. There was total confidence in their ability to can threes, regardless of whether they were guards, forwards or centers.

If the trey presented itself in the disciplined perimeter passing of the Koreans, then the shot was taken.

However, the Koreans could not survive the sheer desire of the Filipinos to win this time around. In the final half, Korean shots that were uncontested in the first half were all challenged.

Marc Pingris collared rebounds and found his short-range shooting hand. As usual, Jayson Castro, the guard with the interesting story behind his passport name on his jersey, blew by foes like a flash. Ranidel de Ocampo found a way to score and Jimmy Alapag fearlessly hoisted threes that found the mark.

But there are a few Korean basketball lessons we can pick up and retain despite our recent conquest. Like their synchronized pop-dance groups that move as one, Korean teams hardly waste the basketball with crisp passing and a clear awareness of the hard court choreography.

By no means does this make them a boring team but a more lethal one with options at almost every position.

Individual skills can still shine within the system as seen in the late-game surge of the Koreans, who cut down a double-digit edge of the Philippines to even lead in the homestretch. It’s just that the Koreans knew exactly where to pass the ball and they rarely, if ever, threw the ball away.

The Koreans also stayed in the game because of their free-throw shooting. Last Saturday, they hit 15 of 17 gift shots for 88 percent. In many team practices today of Philippine teams, this facet of the game is sometimes neglected, encouraging players instead to hone their charity skills on their own free time.

The outlook changes when a team loses a game and then the frustrated players are “punished” the next day with free-throw shooting drills.

It’s gratifying to finally win a big game against a team that would always break our hearts in international games. But we can pick up a few basketball ideas from them in the spirit of hallyu and use them in our own continued basketball development.

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