Two eventful games against Italy
President Rodrigo Duterte, reports say, is not keen on watching the Philippine team game against Italy in the basketball World Cup in China. Mr. Duterte did not say it, but he obviously did not want to witness a mismatch or massacre involving the Philippine national basketball team.
The President’s scheduled visit to China will partly coincide with the Fiba World Cup on Aug. 31-Sept. 15 where the Philippines is bracketed with Italy, Serbia and Angola.
Pardon this, but Mr. Duterte might be interested to know that, in at least two games played by the Philippines against Italy in the international field, the shorter Filipinos were able to come up with very memorable performances.
In the Philippine team match in the World Club Basketball Championship in Girona, Spain, in 1985, the Northern Consolidated Cement (NCC) team of Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco beat Banco di Roma, a top Italian club.
Much earlier, in the 1972 Munich Olympics, the Philippine national basketball team coached by Ignacio “Ning” Ramos put up a bold and memorable stand against the Italian national squad, before losing out.
The winning game against Banco di Roma starred Samboy Lim in what would go down as his greatest international game.
Reported veteran scribe Al S. Mendoza who witnessed the spectacular upset scored by the NCC team coached by Ron Jacobs:
“Samboy Lim scored 37 points in NCC’s 98-79 victory over Italy’s Banco di Roma, after losing to the David Robinson-powered Golden Eagles of the United States and Brazil’s CA Monte Libano in Girona, Spain.”
Samboy, Al S.M. noted, was soaring and scoring from all angles against the amazed Italians. In one instance when Samboy fell after scoring a tough hesitation basket, the entire Philippine bench rushed as one to help him up. Samboy was visibly fagged out, but could not be prevented from sustaining his heroics.
It was the biggest upset in the stellar series and Samboy became talk of the championship.
In the 1972 Munich Summer Games, the Philippines had its last taste of Olympic basketball competition.
Danilo Florencio, famed for his graceful and daring layups, was thrilling the crowd. He was soon hounded by the hawk-nosed Dino Meneghin, tall and hulking main man who was doing the all-around pillaring chore for Italy.
The Philippines held its own and tried to keep pace with Italy in the first half. During a break in the second half, Florencio huddled with the fearless internationalist Rogelio “Tembong” Melencio to complain about Meneghin’s rough tactics. Florencio said the Italian giant was trying to pulverize his chest—“binubura dibdib ko.”
Melencio did not react. But a few plays later, Meneghin plucked a big rebound and was racing solo from midcourt for a big basket. Melencio was perched sideways on top of the keyhole when the Italian stalwart took off, before being nicked on the heel (pinitik), thereby crashing hard on the goal post. He was brought out of the game on a stretcher. Melencio was sent out of the floor.
There was instant recommendation for Melencio to be sent back home. He was allowed to stay and finish the series that saw the Philippines avenging its previous defeat to archrival Japan in the 1971 Asian Basketball Confederation championship in Tokyo.
By the way, after Banco di Roma’s shocking loss to NCC, which carried the San Miguel banner in Girona, Italian coach Mario de Sisti confided that they were bound to be in trouble at home became of the shameful setback.
De Sisti said they would have no choice but fly home via the backdoor.
Gilas Pilipinas will have Italy for its first assignment in the China World Cup.
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