A win 40 years in the making: Gilas edges out Senegal in OT
By Nelson Beltran Updated Friday September 05, 2014 - 12:00am

Gilas Pilipinas guard Jimmy Alapag celebrates during the Philippines' game against Senegal in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Seville, Spain late Thursday. FIBA.com

SEVILLE, Spain - Gilas Pilipinas, down and out, won't just fade away quietly in its FIBA World Cup return, smothering Senegal, 81-79, in overtime to gift the country its first win in 40 years in the global meet.

After couples of heartbreaking losses, the Nationals took their turn to break a heart with a stirring triumph reminiscent of their brave, proud performance at home versus Korea that became their ticket for a first World Cup appearance in 36 years.

Like in Manila in the finest hour of their 2013 FIBA Asian Championship glorious ride, the Filipinos fought and won a battle in the crunch with their naturalized player helpless on the bench.

With Andray Blatche out on fouls in the last 1:55, the Filipinos defied the odds versus the tall, athletic and sweet-shooting Senegal side, giving the country their brightest moment in world basketball for ages.

Gilas could have broken into the knockout stage had it salvaged at least one of its close losses to Croatia, Argentina and Puerto Rico.

The loss could relegate Senegal to fourth seeding in Group B competition of this world meet, playing a top seed from another group in the Round of 16.

Junmar Fajardo, Ranidel de Ocampo, Gabe Norwood, Jimmy Alapag and LA Tenorio were the gallant quintet doing the job in those fateful last two minutes that had the Filipino crowd roaring no end.

Fajardo scored underneath on an assist by De Ocampo then Ocampo, Fajardo and Alapag strung up six straight free throws as Gilas zoomed ahead, 77-71, to stay, thus, achieving its goal of pulling off at least a win in its WC comeback.

It's the first win by the Philippines in the world meet since the Bogs Adornardo-led Phl quintet chalked up two wins for a 13th place finish among 14 participants in the 1974 edition of the world joust in Puerto Rico.

Coach Chot Reyes and the team went up to the gallery at the end of the game, celebrating like they won the championship.

"We'd shown that we belong, we'd shown that we can compete. Now we've shown we can win," said Reyes.

"From the start, we knew our best chance to win is against Senegal. We became a victim of our success with our near upsets (against Croatia, Greece and Puerto Rico)," said Reyes.

Blatche was a huge force for Gilas before fouling out, coming through with 18 points and 14 rebounds against five errors.

Alapag put up another shining performance with 18 points including three treys while Fajardo delivered his biggest performance with 15 markers and nine boards.

Alapag took charge, keeping the Filipinos intact in the gripping battle minus Blatche.

"All our kababayans around the world deserve this win. It's a big honor to be part of the team," said Alapag.  

The Filipinos could have won the game in regulation but Blatche and Tenorio missed an attempt each in the last 10 seconds.

Senegal forced the overtime at 64-all as Maeley Ndoye faked off Tenorio before coolly sinking a trey then the Senegalese made the needed stoppage in the last 33 seconds.

With a tight zone defense and a sudden burst of three-pointers, the Nationals raced ahead, 35-22, on a 19-0 attack before closing the half at 35-22.

Earlier, Mouhammad Faye, a former Georgia Tech standout and former NBA D-League player now playing in the Greek league, came out firing, nearly outscoring the whole Phl team, 11-13, in the first quarter.

But the Nationals threw off the Senegalese as they switched to zone, holding the FIBA Afro qualifier scoreless in over six minutes in the second frame.

Blatche, Lee and Alapag fired four straight triples to highlight their dizzying second-quarter run cheered on by the flag-waving Philippine gallery.

After a woeful 6-of-17 shooting in the first quarter, the Filipinos improved with a 8-of-17 in the next thus sitting on a 13-point cushion at the half.

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GROUP B
TEAMS WIN LOSS
Greece 4 0
Argentina 3 1
Senegal 2 3
Croatia 2 2
Philippines 1 4
Puerto Rico 1 3

 

Saturday, August 30, 2014
10:30 GMT
Croatia vs Philippines
Sunday, August 31, 2014
18:00 GMT
Philippines vs Greece
Monday, September 1, 2014
15:30 GMT
Argentina vs Philippines
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
11:30 GMT
Philippines vs Puerto Rico
Thursday, September 4, 2014
12:00 GMT
Senegal vs Philippines
RANK COUNTRY POINTS
1 USA 940.0
2 Spain 885.0
3 Argentina 490.0
4 Lithuania 432.0
5 Greece 376.0
6 Turkey 294.0