Mendoza: Gilas got the world on a string
SunStar Mendoza

Mendoza: Gilas got the world on a string

The battle was won but not the war. Good enough.

We were not supposed to win the war. Too tough was the opposition. You call it a mismatch, fine by me.

And what was the battle again?

It was for a good performance. And we did so well that we had actually outdid ourselves.

Our basketball republic couldn’t agree more.

The world gasped in disbelief over how much we have improved.

We didn’t balk. We just blinked. That’s a no-no. For, in every sporting contest, the first to wink weakens its fortress.

Before the Riga war in Latvia, we were into three friendlies aka tune-ups. Testing time. How much we have learned.

We won one—against Taiwan. Expected. Taiwan has never been world-class in basketball.

Against Turkey and Poland, we weren’t favored. But, of course. They are honed by European basketball: Advanced.

Still, we gave them a good fight. Both merely escaped with victories by the so-called skin of their teeth.

We could have even beaten Turkey (or was it Poland?), forcing Gilas coach Tim Cone to say: “Almost winning isn’t good.” Meaning, that victory was within grasp. We fell short. And breaks didn’t go our way.

But the skirmishes gave Gilas valuable lessons learned. It showed in its first game in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament against Latvia.

Unintimidated by Latvia’s lofty ranking as world No. 6, No. 37 Gilas immediately went high gear, dunking double-digit leads that went as high as 20 points.

So outclassed was Latvia that no amount of fight backs could dull Gilas’ upset axe—the embarrassment completed via an 89-80 victory that put Gilas on the world’s basketball radar.

Inspired by the win, Gilas overhauled Georgia’s 20-point lead before settling for an inconsequential 96-94 loss, avoiding an 18-point defeat that would have ousted us from the fight.

Against No. 12 Brazil, Gilas got its engine humming early, leading by 12 points in the crucial semifinal battle before building an ego-boosting 33-27 lead at the half.

Then came Brazil’s blistering third quarter 18-0 run, limiting Gilas to a record-low 6 quarter points as the Cariocas carried a 51-39 lead into the fourth period en route to a rousing 71-60 triumph.

Another Olympic dream gone. But the world noticed.

Build on that, fellas.

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