Historic feat hasn’t sunk in yet for Gilas Pilipinas
MANILA, Philippines– As wave after wave of emotion swept through everyone in the Gilas Pilipinas locker room, the players still struggled with the context of their latest achievement: Punching a ticket to Spain for the 2014 Fiba World Cup, marking the country’s return to the world stage.
“Has it sunk in yet? Absolutely not,” said a beaming Jimmy Alapag.
Indeed, how does one come to terms with the enormity of the moment? Japeth Aguilar didn’t even bother trying.
“Words can’t even describe it,” said Japeth Aguilar. “It wasn’t only our dream that was fulfilled but the dream of every Filipino, of every Filipino basketball enthusiast.”
The Philippines finally laid to rest the haunting ghost of Korean past with an 86-79 semifinal victory in the Fiba Asia Championship Saturday night at Mall of Asia Arena and inside a jubilant locker room, there was a sense of knowledge of the feat, but one that very few of them could define.
“It’s awesome man,” said George Mason alum Gabe Norwood. “I’ve played in big games before, a state championship in high school and the [US NCAA] Final Four, but those don’t even come close.”
The locker room was obviously a stark contrast to the one that was bathed in a somber atmosphere after a preliminary round loss to Chinese Taipei threatened to shred the course Gilas Pilipinas charted toward the World Cup.
“Overjoyed,” was how Norwood described the atmosphere this time. “[We felt] like a bunch of little kids who won their first game ever. It was like that, But instead of just your parents watching the game, we had like 20,000 [people] in here like they were our parents. It felt like our family was out here to support us.”
Unable to frame the victory’s place in history through words, Gilas Pilipinas did it through an open show of emotions. Coach Chot Reyes dropped to his spot at the bench and wept. Assistant coach Jong Uichico leapt out of sheer joy. Larry Fonacier knelt at centercourt and raised his hands skyward. Players were weeping. Players were screaming.
And years from now, people will be remembering.
“I told the players before the game that now is the chance to write our story, the Gilas story,” said Reyes.
Just don’t ask the Gilas Pilipinas players what that story is. At least, not now.
“I think we’re still riding high,” said Norwood. “I don’t know when we’ll come down.