Gilas Pilipinas Won in FIBA World Cup Against Senegal on September 4, 2014. This is the first time that the Philippine team won in FIBA World Cup for 40 years. [FULL VIDEO AND REPLAY]
SEVILLE, Spain: After all the effort and the heartaches just to regain the respect of the world, Gilas Pilipinas now has something concrete to take back home.
Not since 1974, when this event was still known as the World Championship, in Puerto Rico has the Philippines managed to chalk up a win, doing it in the classification phase against Australia and the Central African Republic.
But this one was pretty special, as Alapag sang his international swan song and made sure that something would reflect in the final standings since games for final placing are not being played anymore.
It was also scary, as like the first four losses, after the Filipinos blew a 13-point first half lead to even trail, 60-61, with 2:29 left in regulation. The Philippines posted a 35-22 lead after dropping a 19-0 bomb in the second period.
“This is for all of our countrymen,” Alapag said after tossing in 18 points, five from the free throw line inside the final 45 seconds as he took over when Andray Blatche left the game with under two minutes left in extra time.
The entire team went to the stands to celebrate with its loyal fans, some of who coming from cities as far as seven hours away just to cheer the Filipinos.
June Mar Fajardo also stepped up and finally announced his readiness to be a force internationally, shooting 15 points and plucking down nine rebounds.
The 6-foot-10 Fajardo was also big offensively in extension, shooting four of his total when pressure was at its greatest, as the Filipinos finished Group B play with a 1-4 record, certainly not the mark of a side that made everyone’s head turn in the tournament.
Gilas lost to Croatia, 81-78 in overtime, bowed to Greece by just 12, took World No. 3 Argentina into a wild endgame before losing, 85-81, and was nipped by Puerto Rico by just four points on Wednesday.
“Our target a week coming into this tournament was really Senegal,” Gilas coach Chot Reyes said. “But the way they played when this whole thing started was far better than their ranking (of 41st in the world). And that made it tough.
“But after taking on those teams and showing everyone that we belonged and that we could compete at this level, we showed them that we could win,” Reyes said.
“We had a couple of bad break here and there (in the previous games) and had we gotten the breaks we needed, we should be going to Madrid (for the KO stages),” he added.
Unlike in the game against Puerto Rico when none of the Philippine guards was able to deliver at crunchtime, Alapag made sure that there wouldn’t be further heartbreak for the Filipinos and cemented his legacy as one of his country’s finest point guards ever.
“All of our kababayans around the world deserve this win,” said Alapag, a one-time PBA MVP who has the knack of stepping up when the game is truly on the line.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege playing for the national team. I’ve enjoyed every minute that I played,” he said. “We are so passionate (about the game) and I can feel the energy of all the Filipinos all over the world out there tonight.”
Regulation ended at 64-all when the Philippines failed to protect a three-point lead going into the final 1:23.
Maleye Ndoye knocked down the triple that tied it with 33.4 seconds to go as the Senegalese had possession for close to a minute when the Filipinos couldn’t collar the one defensive rebound that would have won it for them in regulation.
Senegal then opened up overtime with a three-pointer from Xane D’Almeida and was even 71-69 up when Blatche committed his final foul and sent Mohamet Siop to the stripe for two charities with 1:55 to play.
And that was when the Filipinos dug deepest and played with so much resolve that the much taller, equally-athletic Senegalese came undone.
Fajardo tied it up with a short baby hook before Ranidel de Ocampo shoved the Filipinos ahead to stay with two free throws off Mouhammed Faye with 1:14 left.
Alapag sealed the deal with 4.3 ticks to go when he made two more charities off Faye for 81-76.