Way, way short.
Team #PUSO—through heartbreaking losses against rivals Iran and South Korea, underdog Qatar, and an inexperienced version of China—is now headed for a battle for 7th place against Mongolia tomorrow, October 1.
Should we win (and at this point, who’s to say the carpet wouldn’t get pulled from underneath us?) the seventh-place finish would rank as the country’s worst through 16 editions of the quadrennial event.
Our question now: Is there any silver lining to this disastrous turn of events? Let’s enumerate the highlights and low-lights to see if, to quote Celine Dion, our puso will go on.
MALUNGKOT: The Chot-novela
It’s hard to be a coach. When basketball teams start failing to meet expectations, it’s typically the coach that gets the most mob-hate, and virulent screams of “Step down now!” Just ask ex-Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni. When teams exceed expectations, the coach is the last to receive praise. Just ask Chot Reyes.
As Gilas sputtered, the screams for Chot’s resignation grew louder. While many would argue that the chants were valid, if we were Chot, we’d be pissed too at how quickly fans can turn against you. But we wish he handled things and reacted with more poise.
After the loss to Qatar, he blamed Marcus Douthit’s lackadaisical effort and called him a quitter. He then benched him in the South Korea game where he could have been of use. In the next game against Kazakhstan, he instructed his players to commit the dubious tactic of scoring in their own goal to force overtime (and get another chance at winning the game by 11 points or what we needed to advance to the semifinals according to the tournament's quotient system).
Later on, he ripped the refs and blame racial differences for the losses. Spin.ph quoted him: “Each game that we play, when it was Korea, the referee was from Iran and China. When we played China, the referees were Korea and Iran. When we play Iran, it’s China, Korea, and the Kuwait guy.
Last time we checked, we were playing basketball and not the blame game. If Coach Chot were to resign, we think he deserves a classier exit than what this spate of pressure-driven reactions has been leading him to.
MALUNGKOT: The Curse of the “Hot Gilas Start”
The story hasn’t been all that different from our FIBA World Cup stint. We make a strong push in the first three quarters and then falter and bow out in the end-game. The opponents have been able to adjust late in the game while we succumb to the pressure.
1) Started 16-0 against India. India slowed the pace down, and lost by just nine.
2) Held a seven-point advantage in the fourth quarter against Iran. In the final six minutes, Iran went on a 15-3 run that shut the door on us for good.
3) Controlled the first half against Qatar, ending with a 39-36 lead. Qatar burst through the doors in the second half and put the game away with a crushing 20-3 run.
4) Led through three quarters opposite Korea, and by as much as 16 points in the third period. Korea staged a comeback and squeaked through with a 97-95 win.
5) Kept Kazakhstan at bay with an 18-point buffer before settling for a 67-65 tally. We needed an 11-point win to advance.