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Henry Liao

CALOY LOYZAGA: *GREATEST FILIPINO CAGER EVER, PART II

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Prominent Filipino basketball athletes have come and gone since the 1900s, but no one player, active or retired, had more experience in international competitions than Carlos (Caloy) Loyzaga.

The multi-dimensional Loyzaga donned the Philippine national colors a total of 10 times, including four stints outside of the Asian region. *The most memorable appearance came during the 2nd FIBA World Basketball Championship in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from October 22 to November 5, 1954.

In that prestigious quadrennial meet, the Philippines grabbed the bronze medal for the highest finish ever by an Asian country in WBC history.

Only the United States (gold) and host Brazil (silver) fared better than the Filipinos.

A dozen countries took part in the two-week tournament. *Seven came from the Americas, three from Europe and a pair 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 best teams from that continent (champion Soviet Union, second-placer Hungary 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) – were also in attendance.

From Europe, however, the best teams were absent as only France, Israel and Yugoslavia could take part. *They finished third, fifth and sixth, respectively, during the 1953 European Championships (now known as EuroBasket).

Despite employing a second-rate unit, the United States grabbed the World crown with a perfect 9-0 record, blasting host Brazil, 62-41, in the gold-medal game.

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 made 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 top colleges and universities.

In contrast, the U.S. squads to the World Basketball Championship were selected by the U.S. Amateur Athletic Union, which could tap only players from the industrial or commercial leagues, the minor colleges and the American Armed Forces.

In 1954, Brazil took 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).

In the final round, the Filipinos dropped a 56-43 decision to eventual titlist United States but not before giving the Americans a scare.

Trailing by only three points at the half, 25-22, the Philippine squad rallied at the start of the second half and grabbed a 31-26 advantage. *However, the Americans’ offense got rolling and with three minutes remaining, the U.S. took control, 49-31, before securing the victory.

Kirby Minter, a 6-6 forward, led the Americans with 15 points. *Loyzaga was one of three Filipinos in double-digit scores with 12 points. *Team skipper Lauro (The Fox) Mumar topscored with 14 markers and 6-2 Jose Rizal College hotshot Mariano (Nano) Tolentino had 11.

The Philippines wound up with a 6-3 overall record (including 1-1 in the preliminaries) during the tournament and officially clinched the bronze medal with a 66-60 win over France in the team’s penultimate assignment in the final round, where all eight teams played against each other on a round-robin basis without any playoffs.

Loyzaga tallied 20 points against the fourth-ranked French.

In the finale against sixth-place Uruguay, the hulking 6-3 center exploded for 33 markers as he powered the Filipinos to a 67-63 success despite the absence of head coach Herminio Silva, who had called in sick that day.

Loyzaga finished as the tournament’s third-leading scorer, averaging 16.4 points in nine assignments. *Only Uruguay’s Oscar Moglia (18.6 ppg) and Canada’s Carl Ridd (18.2 ppg) posted higher scoring averages.

Deservedly so, Loyzaga was named to the five-man All-Tournament Team, along with Minter, Moglia and Brazil’s Zenny de Azevedo and Wlamir Marques. *Loyzaga was the lone Asian on the Mythical Team.

In support of Loyzaga, team captain Lauro (The Fox) Mumar normed 9.3 ppg and Mariano Tolentino chalked up 9.1 ppg during the games.

Other members of the bronze medal-winning PH unit were Antonio Genato, Napoleon Flores, Francisco Rabat, Florentino Bautista Jr., Rafael Barretto, Benjamin Francisco, Ponciano Saldaña, Bayani Amador and Ramon Manulat.

To date, the Philippines remains one of only 14 countries to secure a medal (gold, silver or bronze) in the 62-year history of the World Basketball Championship, which is now known as the FIBA World Cup.

PH Game Results (6-3 record)
Philippines 64 – Paraguay 52 (Loyzaga: 17 points)
Brazil 99 – Philippines 63 (Loyzaga: *nine points)
United States 56 – Philippines 43 (Loyzaga: *12 points)
Philippines 61 – Republic of China 44 (Loyzaga: *10 points)
Philippines 90 – Israel 56 (Loyzaga: *18 points)
Brazil 57 – Philippines 41 (Loyzaga: *15 points)
Philippines 83 – Canada 76 (Loyzaga: *13 points)
Philippines 66 – France 60 Loyzaga: *20 points)
Philippines 67 – Uruguay 66 (Loyzaga: *33 points)

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