The Grind Begins
Make no mistake about it: Gilas 3.0 is a team full of potential. Now, it seems that potential is finally making way for possibilities—tantalizing possibilities.
A day after defeating mighty Iran, Gilas 3.0 went right back to work, routing India 99–65 behind another sensational second half. The win, highlighted by a 24–0 run in the payoff period and capped by a Terrence Romeo-to-Matt Ganuelas alley-oop, gave the nationals the top seed in Group E, setting up a date with a resurgent Lebanon squad in the win-or-go-home quarterfinals.
Terrence Romeo was the man in this one, leading five other players in double figures. The PBA scoring king proved he is more than just a gunslinger as he scattered a tournament-best 20 points on top of 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals in 22 quality minutes. Fellow supersub Calvin Abueva was all over the court yet again, brandishing his devil-may-care brand of play on the way to an all-around stat line of 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals. Surprise starter Marc Pingris, meanwhile, was in full Hannamichi Sakuragi mode—dynamic, intense, undaunted. He was a force on defense, moving his feet, keeping his hands active, and avoiding the ticky-tack fouls that kept him mostly on the bench for the first four games. He even poured in 12 points on a variety of teardrops in and around the paint.
Winners of five straight games, Team Pilipinas will move on to the knockout phase not only with all sorts of momentum but also with a collective confidence emboldened even more by that six-game trial by fire in the classification round. Not that a team with Blatche, Romeo, Abueva, and de Ocampo will ever lack confidence; still, this group will be bringing to the knockout stage the most dangerous kind of self-belief that a basketball player can ever have—that self-belief forged by overcoming adversity, by silencing the critics, by proving the naysayers wrong. More than ever, this is a team that knows fully well it can beat anybody, and that includes Iran in a possible finals rematch.
Now, complacency is the enemy.
Winning—in dominating fashion, most especially—can lull a team into a fall sense of security, into a feeling that every thing is okay even when something is, in fact, amiss. Gilas 3.0 needs to keep on working, to keep on grinding, to keep on improving. If the team becomes content and complacent, it will surely be in trouble, if not against Lebanon on Thursday, then against Qatar or Japan on Friday.
But if Gilas 3.0 can stay even-keeled and humble, then this group may very well do something special this weekend: punch a ticket to Rio 2016. It will take dedication and discipline, sacrifice and selflessness, passion and persistence. It will take Abueva-type effort and Pingris-like tenacity on both ends of the floor—hands and feet active and unrelenting, bodies being put on the line every single time. It will take constant ball and player movement, something Team Pilipinas showed in the second half in yesterday’s rout of India. It will take some luck, as in any game, a whole lot of “puso,” and perhaps even more.
Surely, it will take a lot to win it all in Changsha. Gilas 3.0, though, has shown it has every thing a team needs—perhaps even more, actually—to win the golden ticket to Rio.
The potential is giving way to possibilities, all right. Now, it is up to Gilas 3.0 to turn those possibilities to realities.
Martin is a copy editor for the University Press of First Asia. He is an avid sports fan. He used to keep a sports blog at http://pinoysportsnet.blogspot.com/.