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  1. 2014 FIBA World Cup: Greece Bites the Dust; Top 4 in Group A Make Quarters

    Wildcard entry but FIBA fifth-ranked Greece became the latest to fall out of the unbeaten ranks, losing its Round of 16 encounter with a shocking 90-72 loss to Group A fourth-placer Serbia in the ongoing FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.

    Meanwhile, defending World titlist United States and host and back-to-back Olympic silver medalist Spain marched to their sixth victory in as many appearances with easy triumphs in the second-round single-elimination knockout stage.

    In the Round of 16, Group C No. 1 seed United States eliminated Group D fourth seed Mexico, 86-63; Group A third-placer France ousted Group B second seed Croatia, 69-64; Group D second seed Slovenia crushed Group C third seed Dominican Republic; Group A topnotcher Spain breezed past Group B fourth-placer Senegal, 89-56; Group D leader Lithuania best Group C fourth seed New Zealand, 76-71; Group C second seed Turkey edged Group D third seed Australia, and Group A second-placer Brazil knocked off Group B third-placer Argentina, 85-65.

    All the top four finishers from Group A – Spain, Brazil, France and Serbia – qualified for the single-elimination knockout quarterfinals (third round).

    The Round-of-8 quarterfinal games will be played on September 9 and 10 and feature Lithuania (5-1) vs. Turkey (4-2) and the United States (6-0) vs. Slovenia (5-1) in one bracket and Serbia (3-3) vs. Brazil (5-2) and Spain (6-0) France in the other bracket.

    Brazil and Turkey were wildcard entries to the 24-nation World Cup.

    The semifinal games or Final Four will be held on September 11 and 12 with the Lithuania vs. Turkey winner battling the U.S. vs. Slovenia victor for one finals ticket and the Serbia vs. Brazil winner taking on the Spain vs. France victor for the other finals berth.

    The bronze-medal game between the two semifinal losers will be played on September 13. The gold-medal encounter between the two semifinal winners will be held on September 14.

    The Palacio de Deportes de la Comunidad de Madrid in Madrid will host the medal-round hostilities.

    Only the gold-medal winner will automatically earn a berth in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
  2. Team Philippines: Bronze medalist in 1954 World Games

    Forget about Gilas Pilipinas’ bittersweet performance in the ongoing FIBA Basketball World Cup.

    Better just reminisce the Philippines’ momentous bronze-medal finish in the FIBA World Basketball Championship – which the FIBA World Cup was previously known until this year – six decades ago in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

    Until now, it is the best-ever finish by an Asian country in the World’s 64-year history.

    The astonishing feat came during the 2nd World games from October 22 to November 5, 1954. The Pinoys gained the bronze medal and only the United States (gold) and host Brazil (silver) fared better.

    A dozen countries participated. Seven came from the Americas, three from Europe and two from Asia.

    Because the Brazilian government did not have diplomatic ties with the governments of the socialist countries of Europe at the time, some of the top teams from that continent (champion Soviet Union, second-placer Hungry and fourth-placer Czechoslovakia) were no-shows.

    The best teams from the Americas were present with the exception of Mexico, which had declined an invitation. The top squads from Asia – the Philippines and Formosa (Taiwan/now known as Chinese-Taipei) – also were in attendance.

    From Europe, however, the best teams were nowhere to be found as only France, Israel and Yugoslavia could take part, and they wound up third, fifth and sixth, respectively, during the 1953 European Championship (now known as EuroBasket).

    Despite employing a second-rate unit, the United States grabbed the World crown with an unblemished 9-0 record, having blasted host Brazil, 62-41, in the gold-medal contest. The Americans’ lowest winning margin was five points, a 64-59 (30-26) decision over sixth-place Uruguay in the eight-team final round.

    There are two reasons why the Americans were unable to send their best amateur team.

    Firstly, the date of the tournament makes it practically impossible to call on players from the colleges and universities. It was aggravated by the fact that the tournament largely had been held south of the Equator, thus making the choice of the dates unsuitable for teams coming from the north.

    Secondly, it was the U.S. Olympic Basketball Committee that chose its Olympic team at the time and it had the luxury of utilizing players from all sections of the country, including the leading colleges and universities.

    In contrast, the U.S. teams to the World Basketball Championship (now known as the FIBA Basketball World Cup) were picked by the U.S. Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), which could tap only from the industrial or commercial leagues, the lower –division (or junior) colleges and the American Armed Forces.

    In 1954, Brazil captured the silver medal with an 8-1 record, including a pair of victories over the Philippines (99-63 in the preliminary round and 57-41 in the eight-team final round).

    The Filipinos finished with a 6-3 overall mark (including 1-1 in the preliminaries) and officially clinched the bronze with a 66-60 win over France in the team’s penultimate game in the final round, where all eight teams played against each other on a round-robin basis without any playoffs.

    Carlos (The Big Difference) Loyzaga chalked up 20 points against the fourth-ranked French. In the finale against sixth-place Uruguay, the 6-3 Loyzaga (who turned 84 last August 29), exploded for 33 markers as he powered the Filipinos to a 67-63 triumph despite the absence of head coach Herminio Silva, who called in sick that day.

    Loyzaga was the tournament’s No. 3 scorer behind Uruguay’s Oscar Moglia 918.6 ppg) and Canada’s Carl Ridd (18.2 ppg) with a 16.4-point clip in nine appearances. He also was voted to the five-man All-Tournament Team.

    Team skipper Lauro (The Fox) Mumar averaged 9.3 ppg and elongated Mariano Tolentino normed 9.1 ppg.

    Other members of the Philippine team were Antonio Genato, Napoleon Flores, Francisco Rabat, Florentino Bautista Jr., Rafael Barretto, Benjamin Francisco, Ponciano Saldana, Bayani Amador and Ramon Manulat.
    The Philippines is one of only 15 countries to secure a medal (gold, silver or bronze) in FIBA World Cup history.
  3. 2014 FIBA World Cup: Close Encounters with Gilas Team Pilipinas

    Gilas Team Pilipinas’ gutsy performance in the 17th FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain warmed the hearts of hoops fans here and elsewhere.

    However, its bittersweet campaign lasted only through the preliminary phase, having dropped the first four of its five assignments against Croatia (81-78 OT), Greece (82-70), Argentina (85-81), and Puerto Rico (77-73) before edging early top-four qualifier Senegal, 81-79, in overtime, to wind up with a 1-4 record and a sixth- and last-place ranking in the tough Group B of the four-group, 24-nation competitions.

    Our boys had great winning chances against Croatia, Argentina and Puerto Rico but their lack of mental toughness and shaky decision-making at crunchtime did them in.

    Banderang kapos the team seemed throughout – even in the finale against the Senegalese (having blown a 15-point advantage in the third quarter) before pulling off a win in the five-minute extension with accurate free-throw shooting.

    The Filipinos also bucked the late disqualification of naturalized player Andray Blatche, who fouled out midway through OT with his fifth double-double in as many appearances. The former Washington Wizard and Brooklyn Net completed his international debut with the Filipinos by averaging 21.2 points – tying Spain’s Pau Gasol for third place in the tournament behind Puerto Rico’s Jose Juan Barea (22.0 ppg) and Argentina’s Luis Scola (21.6 ppg – and pacing the tournament with 13.8 rebounds an outing (ahead of Senegal’s Gorgui Dieng and Iran’s Hamed Haddadi, both of whom owned an 11.4 clip).

    Puerto Rico, which also won just once in five appearances, ranked ahead of the Filipinos for fifth spot in Group B by virtue of the winner-over-the-other rule. But the Puerto Ricans, too, were sent home early.

    The fifth- and sixth-placers in each group quickly exited from the competition as only the top four finishers advanced to the Round of 16 (or second round) which had a single-elimination format.

    Joining the Philippines in the sidelines after the first round were its Asian rivals, the Islamic Republic of Iran and South Korea.

    The Iranians, who topped the FIBA Asia Championship last year and in three of the past four years, went 1-4 in Group A with their lone victory (88-73) coming against FIBA Africa Championship runner-up Egypt. The Koreans, currently Asia’s third-best team, placed last in Group D with a 0-5 mark.

    Other teams that failed to survive the preliminary round are Egypt, Ukraine, Finland and FIBA Africa titlist Angola.

    Team Philippines was a feel-good story with its exciting and entertaining close encounters. But FIBA Africa third-placer Senegal was by far a more impressive feel-good story. The Senegalese qualified for the second round with victories over Puerto Rico (82-75) and Croatia (77-75) for a 2-3 ledger in the same Group B. It marked only the fourth time in World history that an African team made it past the preliminary phase (Angola did it twice before and Nigeria once).

    Meanwhile, only three teams remained unblemished after the preliminary phase with identical 5-0 records – reigning World champion United States, back-to-back Olympic silver medalist Spain and wildcard entry but FIBA fifth-ranked Greece.

    The Round-of-16 matchups featured A1 Spain vs. B4 Senegal, A2 Brazil vs. B3 Argentina, A3 France vs. B2 Croatia and A4 Serbia vs. B1 Greece in one bracket and C1 United States vs. D4 Mexico, C2 Turkey vs. D3 Australia, C3 Dominican Republic vs. D2 Slovenia and C4 New Zealand vs. D1 Lithuania in the other.

    The second-round games with a one-loss-and-you-are-out format will be played on September 6 and 7.

    After a rest day on September 8, action resumes with another knockout-type quarterfinal round involving the eight Round-of-16 victors – two games on September 9 and two more on September 10.

    For the second time in six years, Cebu City will host the 10th Asian University Basketball Championship (AUBC) from October 22-26.

    Six collegiate teams, including a pair of foreign entries from the People’s Republic of China and South Korea, are taking part in the prestigious regional competitions to be held at the tradition-steeped Cebu Coliseum.

    The local participants will be spearheaded by the top schools from the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. (CESAFI) – the University of the Visayas Green Lancers, Southwestern University Cobras, and the University of San Jose-Recoletos Jaguars. UV, bannered by veterans John Michael Abad, Chris Perolino and Alfred Codilla, is the reigning CESAFI titlist, having beaten SWU, 3-2, in the 2013 finals to become the first team in league history to capture the crown after dropping the first two games of the best-of-five championship series.

    Huaqiao University of the People’s Republic of China and Muongji University of South Korea, both of which are former AUBC champions, will be around to test the mettle of the best collegiate squads from Sugbu, the Queen City of the South.

    Muongji University of Korea topped the 4th AUBC tournament hosted by Dumaguete City in 2005.

    Huaqiao University, on the other hand, whipped local bet University of the Visayas (powered by a young Greg Slaughter) during the 6th AUBC finals held in Cebu City in 2008. An international school, Huaqiao is located in Xiamen, China and has been supportive of AUBF activities since 2005.

    In 2011, Guangdong University of PROC bested a Taiwanese squad to annex the crown at the Bintulu Stadium in Sarawak, Malaysia. The following year, the University of the East Red Warriors, led by Roi Sumang, Chris Javier and Cameroonian import Charles Mammie, ascended to the AUBC throne in hostilities held at the Trinity University of Asia in Quezon City and participated in by foreign schools Hangtuah University of Indonesia and Universiti Technologi MARI of Malaysia.

    The opening ceremony of the 2014 AUBC showcase is set for October 22 at the Cebu Coliseum owned by Attorney Go of the University of Cebu.

    The five-day international tourney is being organized by businessman-sportsman Lorenzo (Chao) Sy in coordination with the Asian University Basketball Federation (AUBF) and the Cebu City Sports Commission under the City Government of Mayor Michael Rama.

    Honorable Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama will be the guest speaker during the AUBC opening ceremony.

    Prominent sports personalities invited to grace the opening are AUBF President Shin Dong Pa, AUBF deputy secretary general Park Hyun Mo, and CESAFI Commissioner Felix Tiukinhoy.

    All-time Korean cage great Shin Dong Pa and Park Hyun Mo will accompany the Muongji University team to Cebu City. Muongji, whose head coach is Kim Nam Ki, seeks to duplicate its championship finish nine years ago.

    Lorenzo “Chao” Sy is the chairman of the AUBC Organizing Committee.
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    Philippine Basketball
  5. 2014 FIBA World Cup: The Best is Yet to Come for Gilas Pilipinas

    There have been various views on Gilas Team Pilipinas’ performance so far in the 17th FIBA Basketball World Cup.

    While distinct from each other, most comments are valid and can be defended before the bar of public opinion – if not at Plaza Miranda.

    Regardless, the Philippine national team has exceeded expectations with its tireless, never-say-die play albeit in losing efforts.

    The views center on such issues as:

    1- There’s victory in defeat.

    2- Close calls do not count.

    3- The team’s best is not good enough.

    Issue No. 1. Is there really a victory in defeat? Or is there a silver lining in every cloud?

    Team Pilipinas came oh-so-close to registering a victory over Croatia in its opening game, fell to Greece by a decent score after overcoming a huge deficit early on, and succumbed to Argentina after blowing another opportunity to win in the final seconds. Sayang. Heart-breaking losses they all ended up.

    After three games, the Philippines and Puerto Rico shared the cellar in the six-team Group B of the four-group preliminary phase in the 24-nation tournament entering last night’s game that essentially was a battle between the two teams out to avoid outright elimination.

    The three defeats have been described by hard-core hoops nationalists as “victory in defeat,” moral victories that is.

    Maybe so, considering the prognosis by most pre-tournament pundits that Asia’s second-best team (behind the Islamic Republic of Iran on the basis of their finish in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship) that is ranked only 34th around the globe would be badly beaten by the taller teams from Europe and South America, perhaps by 30 points or more.

    Then again, the “puso” spirit in our beloved Pinoy cagers was on heightened alert in all three setbacks. The Croatians won, 81-78, in overtime but not after the Filipinos overcame a deficit of 14 points in the first half and still trailed by eight going into the payoff quarter before launching a monstrous rally that saw them come within a Jeff Chan triple of breaking a deadlock in the last seconds of regulation and resulted in an upset win over FIBA’s 16th-ranked team. In the final seconds of the five-minute extension, Croatia was up by only three points after a brief surge by the Philippines but a chance by the latter to send the nerve-wracking encounter into a second OT was aborted when the honorable referees swallowed their whistle on a three-point attempt by Jason Castro William at the buzzer.

    Against FIBA fifth-ranked Greece, our troops were hampered by an injury that naturalized player Andray Blatche suffered in the tournament opener and sudden loss of shooting form by Chan. They fell behind by 13 points through three quarters but sliced the deficit to a single digit midway in the payoff period before fiercely surrendering an 82-70 verdict.

    Less than 22 hours later, Gilas Pilipinas took the floor for its third assignment and stormed ahead of FIBA third-ranked Argentina at the opening gates with a 10-point advantage but the Argentines, minus star Manu Ginobili of the U.S. National Basketball Association (NBA) champion San Antonio Spurs in the tournament due to an injury, came roaring back in the middle quarters to win by a close 85-81 count. Sometime in the third quarter, the 2004 Olympic gold medalists were up by 15 markers but the Filipinos fought hard to the end and even had an opportunity to equalize the score with less than 20 seconds remaining (and Team Pilipinas behind, 83-81) when William committed a costly unforced turnover that sealed his team’s doom. Chan was held scoreless in just two third-point field attempts but Ranidel De Ocampo (4-for-8 from three-point territory, 18 points) and team skipper Jimmy Alapag (5-for-7 threes, 15 points) came to the rescue.

    Blatche, an NBA free agent who saw action with the Brooklyn Nets last season, has been a pillar of strength for the team with double-doubles in all three contests and averages of 21 points and 13.7 rebounds.

    In the “Group of Death” that it was in, the Filipinos showed the world that they could match up against the best from the other side of the Pacific, and that it was no longer a basketball patsy in Asia or elsewhere.
    With its gutsy performance, our boys once again showed the Filipinos’ trademark resilience and never-say-die spirit not only in the “real world” but also on the sporting scene.

    Issue No. 2. Close calls do not count.

    At the far end of the spectrum are some Filipino hoop fans that believe that a defeat is a defeat no matter what. There is no “moral victory” column in the tournament standings. Neither is there a column for a “draw” or games that went into overtime. There are only wins and losses.
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