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Redemption and for all the Marbles

Gilas Pilipinas center Japeth Aguilar dunks the ball off three Japanese players during their FIBA Asia Championship game last night at the Mall of Asia Arena. Gilas won, 90-71. (Tony Pionilla)

After handily disposing Kazhakstan via 30-point rout, the Philippines has been given a great chance to advance to the World Championships in Spain in 2014.

Standing in their way however are once again the Koreans, a team that has had the Philippines’ number in previous events.

Heartbreaking is an understatement but Korea has indeed doused water on the Philippines’ aspirations, something that begun as far as the Joe Lipa-mentored squad in the 1986 Asian games.

Korea has dominated the Philippines ever since and the closest perhaps that the Philippines came in defeating their Asian archrival came in 2002. That was the controversial year where the PH squad lost on two missed free throws from ace Olsen Racela, a scene that continues to haunt RP basketball to this day.

In 2011, Korea once again spoiled the Philippines chances with a 70-68 victory for third place, booting out the RP team’s inspirations of making it to the Olympics.

Now, coach Chot Reyes and his boys have a chance to erase all that and achieve what previous PH basketball programs have failed – advance to the seemingly elusive World Championships.

And to do that, the Philippines has two chances. One is tonight when they meet their nemesis and the other should they lose once again tomorrow in a battle for third place against either Iran or preliminary round tormentor, Chinese Taipei.

With China out of the picture, this is as good as any opportunity for the Gilas Pilipinas squad. But Korea remains dangerous as ever, a squad that seems to have gotten only better and expected to render nightmares both inside and/or outside as they have shown throughout this year.

In fact, their conquest over China should be a fair warning although the Chinese seemed to be on a rebuilding process and were ill-prepared for this year’s meet.

However, Gilas Pilipinas is bound to go for it all. Not only because the FIBA championships are being held in Manila, Philippines but the fact that with only two games remaining, the team is expected to go for broke.

But to do that, the squad must start strong and finish strong, no errors allowed. There should be no fourth quarter relaxation or meltdown, something that the team has to rid of itself as seen in their previous game against Chinese Taipei.

The team needs to play solid team basketball for the full game and only heave a sigh or relief after the final buzzer has sounded.

Whatever the case, “Never Say Die”, as former Senator Sonny Jaworksi reiterated and maintain your focus.

The Philippine dream doesn’t get any clearer or closer than this and hopefully with the whole nation at their back, Gilas Pilipinas finally achieves the rant that every Filipino basketball fanatic wants – Team Pilipinas in Spain. (Brian Yalung)