All heart: PUSO!

SINGKIT - Doreen G. Yu - The Philippine Star

I write this before we play Jordan for the gold, but I am basking in our win over China the other night. I watched the game on replay, only after I knew the result. Otherwise I would have had a major meltdown. Gilas was down by 18 at halftime. Midway through the third quarter it seemed like our boys were climbing back, in spurts and stops, whittling the lead down to a dozen, but then the Chinese made those long three-pointers.

Even on replay, I watched the last quarter at the edge of my seat. With two minutes left we were still down by seven; if I had been watching it live I would have switched off the TV – oh me of little faith!

They don’t seem to be using the term much anymore, but PUSO is exactly what got Gilas that miraculous win. Coach Tim Cone admitted that he had, in fact, lost hope in those last moments, but the players didn’t. They fought on, against the Chinese team of not just five but six – the sixth being the hometown crowd with their little red flags and Yao Ming sitting on the Chinese bench with a perpetual scowl.

Former Gilas coach Chot Reyes – love him or hate him, but you do not boo our own coach in front of an international audience – put PUSO into our players as they trod the long, hard road to the FIBA World Cup where, despite three frustrating losses, they trounced China in their last game. Barely a month later, the two teams met again, and for sure revenge was top of mind for the squad in red.

But Gilas, having squeaked past Iran the day before, clawed their way back after a less than stellar start. And what got them through was PUSO – plus, of course, hard work, punishing training and a great team on the court and on the bench of coaches and managers and trainers, even the guy putting ice packs on Justin Brownlee’s shoulders at every time out.

Brownlee, who is nicknamed Noypi – was, of course, the hero of the game. But I must give a shout out to my favorites – June Mar Fajardo and CJ Perez – as well as the other players who gave their all, fought the good fight with so much heart – PUSO! – and won the game.

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