Great things in life and in sports take time.
At times, one can question when success will arrive. Positive changes year after year are certainly welcome but winning it all trumps all those developments. At the end of the day though, there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel as long as one puts the work in.
After years of trying to get over the hump, the Gilas Pilipinas Women continue to build on their recent success and have gained traction in asserting themselves at least in the ASEAN region. Despite losing to 13-time champion Malaysia in the final game, the Gilas Women clinched their second consecutive SEA Games gold medal and have placed themselves in the conversation as one of the ASEAN’s best.
Winning the gold medal was the obvious mission, but the image above only goes to show the high standards the Gilas Women have held themselves to. It’s that type of mentality that has allowed them to reap success and climb up to Level 1 of FIBA Women’s Asia Cup. A close loss to a storied program like that of Malaysia should be nothing to be ashamed of, but this attitude of seeking perfection is something that should help the Gilas Women avoid complacency.
Continuity has been Gilas Women’s strong suit considering head coach Pat Aquino has outlasted most of Gilas’ Men’s Team head coaches in the last decade and even a couple of Philippine presidents. Having a program in place certainly helps, with many of the team’s mainstays having been with Aquino during his stint with the NU Lady Bulldogs. That Aquino will step down from his role with the Lady Bulldogs to fully focus on the national team means that he knows what to prioritize since he has done all that he can to make NU the juggernaut it is in women’s college basketball.
Unfortunately, none of this can be said for the Gilas Pilipinas Men.
From a basketball perspective, the Gilas Men could be equated to Team USA in the ASEAN region. Among all the countries in ASEAN, the Philippines devotes effort, funds, and stress towards men’s basketball more than the others combined. Football is the preferred sport of the region and the Philippines pretty much went the other way.
Talent alone used to be enough to win games, but now that the rest of the region is catching up, the problems that Gilas Men could have easily set aside have reared their ugly heads.
The 85-81 loss to Indonesia was a rude awakening to say the least. Missed open shots and failing to prevent 3-point opportunities on the other end were arguably one of the bigger concerns in this heartbreaking result for the Philippines.
Beyond the shooting, the other drawback was adjusting to how the game unfolded. Indonesia’s naturalized player in Marques Bolden was saddled with foul trouble and not feeding a six-time PBA MVP in June Mar Fajardo prevented them from creating more separation. Of course Fajardo wasn’t the only viable option for the Gilas Men, but the goal of getting the best shot possible was something that should have been the objective when Indonesia was in trouble.
There are also a lot of moving parts within Gilas Men from the coaching staff to the players themselves. Every international tournament where Gilas Men gets blown out or loses a game they should have won feels like the start of another vicious cycle.
Besides, the excuse of so little time has been time immemorial that it at times feels like a crutch. It also doesn’t help that your coach says “It’s on me” then proceeds to cite the absences of players who never saw a minute on the court nor were on the bench.
What happens next for the Gilas Men seems to be a big question moving forward and how they address it could chart the course of the national team for the next decade, one which is seeing a more competitive field even at the ASEAN level.
Gold medals are one of the more obvious testaments to triumph in sports and the Gilas Pilipinas Women have instilled a winning culture that will lead to long-term success. Being on top used to be the norm for Gilas Pilipinas Men but after their 1000th wakeup call, change shouldn’t be nice words as it is a legitimate need.