No need to sift through decades-old newspaper articles, nor search the web for grainy video footages.
The Philippines once shocked mighty China in an international basketball competition.
When exactly was that? Look no further, as the shocker occurred just one year and twelve days before the two basketball nations clash anew, this time in the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games.
In August 9, 2017, the Philippine Men’s basketball team defeated powerhouse China in the FIBA Asia Cup. Gilas Pilipinas dealt their Chinese counterparts a 96-87 upset in the Group B preliminary round opening game, held at Zouk Mikael, Lebanon.
The Chot Reyes-mentored Philippine quintet opened their 2017 FIBA Asia Cup campaign against China, with both teams eyeing a strong start in the continental showpiece.
Bannered by Terrence Romeo, Gabe Norwood and Jayson Castro, Gilas Pilipinas also enlisted Fil-German slotman Christian Standhardinger as their naturalized player in lieu of Andray Blatche. China, on the other hand, brought in Guo Ailun, Zhou Peng and Han Dejun for the Lebanon joust.
The Philippines came smoking out of the gates, ending the first quarter with a 26-16 lead behind the exploits of Romeo and Standhardinger. The game’s physicality was evident as early as the 2:29 mark of the first period. A disqualifying foul was called on Gilas enforcer Calvin Abueva after decking Chinese forward Li Gen with a head-butt.
In the second quarter, the Philippines’ lead went as high as 17, with Castro and Raymond Almazan joining the scoring fray. A pair of “Alma-slams” from the Rain or Shine center electrified the Nouhad Nawfal Arena, as the Filipinos entered the half with a 53-39 advantage.
China made things interesting in the payoff period, with the Philippines leading by just six at the start of the fourth quarter. Imposing their size advantage, the Du Feng-mentored Chinese team finally tasted the lead, 83-82, with 5:45 to go after a Jinqiu Hu jumper. A 13-2 run gave China their biggest lead in the ballgame, 87-84, with 4:20 remaining.
Not to be outdone, the Philippine squad retaliated to blank China up until the final buzzer. Romeo scored eight straight points to restore order for Gilas Pilipinas, which held on to a nine-point victory, their first for the tournament.
Romeo tallied game-high 26 points, on 5-of-7 shooting from the three-point line, while Standhardinger contributed 15 markers for the Philippines. Guo led China with 18 points and five assists.
The victory paved the way for a Group B sweep for the Philippines, which also waylaid Iraq and Qatar in the preliminaries. As the top finisher in their bracket, Gilas Pilipinas earned an automatic slot in the quarterfinal round. There, the Philippines suffered a 118-86 shellacking from a hot-shooting South Korean squad.
With wins over the two Middle Eastern teams, China emerged as the number two finisher behind the Philippines in Group B. Relegated to the playoff round, China had to scrape past Syria, 81-79, for a ticket to the quarterfinals. In the round of eight, China saw their Asia Cup stint end up in flames after a 97-71 beatdown from eventual champions Australia.
In the final standings, China claimed fifth place while the Philippines ended up at seventh after contrasting fates in the classification phase.
THE NEXT CHAPTER
China has long been a dominant force in the Asian basketball scene, emerging as champions in 16 of the 29 editions of the FIBA Asia Cup, previously named as the Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) Championship and the FIBA Asian Championship. The Chinese men’s team has also won the most number of gold medals in the Asian Games basketball competition, capturing seven in 17 stagings.
Winners of five Asian Championship titles, the Philippines has placed second in the 2013 and 2015 tournaments held in Manila and Wuhan, respectively. In the Asian Games, the Philippines triumphed in the first four basketball competitions, with the last gold medal coming from the 1962 edition in Jakarta, Indonesia.
On Tuesday, August 21, the Philippines rekindle their rivalry with China in the 18th Asian Games basketball tournament. In the resumption of Group D preliminaries, the Chinese men’s team debut against the Rain or Shine-backed Philippine side, victors of their August 16 opening match against Kazakhstan.