Never say die
HANGZHOU, China — Nobody saw Gilas Pilipinas’ miraculous victory over China coming — not even Filipino sportswriters.
In fact, when the Chinese led by five with under two minutes left, 76-71, Manila-based scribes started to vacate their respective spots in the press box to go to the mixed zone for post-game interview. Some of them started hammering their stories while others were already folding their laptops and prepared to call it a day.
Then, Justin Bronwlee’s explosion happened.
Reporters suddenly came rushing back to the court not just to check the scores but also to witness the action and drama of what could be one of the greatest comebacks in international basketball.
They paid a handsome price for their lack of faith as all they witnessed was the final defensive stop that triggered a massive Filipino celebration right in front of Chinese basketball hero Yao Ming and their army of supporters.
Gilas coach Tim Cone had to rub his eyes to make sure that he’s not dreaming.
“I told Justin that if you do this for Ginebra, that’s awesome. But if you do this on an international stage, in a big moment like this, to beat the host team, I mean that’s unforgettable. People will remember that forever,” Cone said.
“It’s something you only get to see only in movies.”
HANGZHOU, China — Fate has a funny way of serving justice.
Reports are swirling that Serbian coach Sasa Djordjevic is in hot water after China suffered two straight losses to Gilas Pilipinas in a span of one month.
The first loss happened in the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Manila in which the Chinese absorbed a sorry 75-96 decision at the hands of the Filipinos in the classification phase.
The setback was so devastating that Chinese fans demanded the firing of Djordjevic. The Serbian eventually calmed them down by issuing an apology and promising to do well in the 19th Asian Games.
But it didn’t happen.
With Gilas Pilipinas’ naturalized player Justin Bronwlee catching fire, Djordjevic failed to help his team sustain its momentum down the stretch, leading to a heartbreaking 76-77 in the semifinals.
Chinese Basketball Association president Yao Ming reportedly was not happy while some fans were in tears as they couldn’t believe that they will not be playing in the gold medal match against Jordan on Friday.
By the way, Djordjevic is also the same coach who said the Filipinos “lack the quality” to compete in the international arena when he was still coaching Serbia during the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2019.
Justice is served.
HANGZHOU, China — After absorbing a sorry 76-77 loss to the Philippines in the semifinals of the men’s basketball event, China snubbed the post-match press briefing and hurriedly went back to the Athletes Village.
It didn’t sit well with the organizers.
China’s coach, Sasa Djordjevic, said they were already in the bus headed for the Athletes Village when they got a call from the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee asking them to return and grant media interviews. The Serbian mentor returned together with team captain Zhao Jiwei.
Chinese Basketball Association president Yao Ming was apologetic, saying that the incident was a case of “miscommunication.”
“We were on the bus to go back and got a call from the organizing committee. So we dropped the players at the village to let them rest and came back with Djordjevic and Zhao Jiwei,” the Chinese legend said.
Djordjevic also issued an apology, not just for the long wait that the media had to endure, but also for the setback that knocked the crown off their heads.
“Unfortunately, this is basketball, and games like this happen once in coaches and players’ careers or times, one way or another,” he said.
“We were ready for the game, we played the first half great, we were ready for everything. But in the second half, we felt the pressure and lost the competition.”