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Tonight, a nation revels in the triumph of the host squad. And with good reason.

Tonight, the Gilas Pilipinas basketball team took on Asian powerhouses Iran for the gold medal. However, after a blazing run that saw the country taking out danger team South Korea, the Gilas went down fighting to the Iranians. Still, they brought home a silver medal, but in the eyes of a nation obsessed with basketball, it was as good as good as gold: a hard-fought campaign all the way and a well-deserved victory, with one of three Asian slots to next year’s FIBA World Championships in Spain in the bag.

For some, the silver-medal finish is the culmination of a period of cage disappointment that started with a seventh-place finish in the 1978 FIBA World Championships – which the Philippines also hosted. The only bright spots in that period were the silver-medal finish at the 1990 Asian Games, with the only other podium finish being a third-place ending at the 1998 Bangkok Asiad.

Yesterday’s vengeance against South Korea was something over a decade in the making. The nationals lost to the Koreans in the bronze-medal round at the 2002 Asian Games – all because of a slipped PH defense in the final seconds that resulted in a trey upsetting the slim PH lead. History repeated itself nine years later at the FIBA Asia championships in Wuhan, China, where only two years before and a few hundred miles away in Tianjin, Team Philippines only finished eighth. The reevaluation since Wuhan gave the nationals time to rebuild their battle plan. Except for a heart-breaking 79-84 loss to Chinese Taipei, Team Gilas kept their offensive flowing until the semi-final fight against the South Koreans. An 11-year curse finally ended with an 86-79 hammering of the guests.

Gilas’ feat was not the only highlight of the tournament. It was also a David vs Goliath battle for the two Chinas, as Chinese Taipei dealt a 96-78 bombing of China in the quarterfinals. The Chinese finished fifth with their neighbors across the Taiwan Strait a spot higher.

Special Awards
MVP: Ahmed Haddadi (IRI)
All Star Team:

PG – Jayson Castro (PHI)
SG – Kim Min-goo (KOR)
SF – Lin Chih-chieh (TPE)
PF – Oshin Sahakian (IRI)
C – Hamed Haddadi (IRI)

Even if the brave Gilas Pilipinas squad faltered against the beefier Iranians, we should celebrate the fact that our own cage heroes have pulled off a historic feat. We must be proud of them all the way and continue to be there for them as they get ready for Spain. As one might say, “no pain, no Spain.”

Congratulations, Gilas Pilipinas! Good games, Iran and South Korea! Onward to Spain!

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