Members of Gilas Pilipinas celebrate following their 86-79 win against South Korea in their semifinals game of the FIBA Asia Basketball Championship at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay city, last Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013. The win by the Philippines earned the country a slot in the FIBA World Basketball Championship next year in Spain. The Philippines lost in the subsequent gold medal match against undefeated Iran. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, AUGUST 12, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Louis Bacani -  Malacañang congratulated the Gilas Pilipinas for winning the silver medal in the recently-concluded FIBA Asia Championships, praising the players for showcasing a big heart for the game and for the nation despite being physically outsized by most of their foes.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the victory of the country's national basketball team is the "culmination of years of hard work, belief, and perseverance" from the players, their families, coaching staff, and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.

Lacierda also cited the support of the Filipino fans who have "always stood behind the national team through their struggles and triumphs."

"In unison, the nation urged our team forward, and with consummate 'puso,' they laid everything on the line for flag and country. Gilas Pilipinas has shown the world that no one can outsize the heart of the Filipino," he said in a statement.

"May their performance inspire every Filipino to relentlessly pursue excellence, no matter what field they find themselves in, so that, together, we may fulfill our shared aspiration of a Philippine nation greater than ever before," Lacierda added.

The team's second-place finish in the tournament earned the Philippines a ticket to the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain that is set next year.

The victory puts back the Philippines to the world basketball map after over three decades. The country last played in the FIBA World Cup in 1978.

On Sunday, Gilas failed to earn the gold medal after falling 85-71 to undefeated Iran, which was bannered by seven-foot-two NBA player Hamed Haddadi, who led all scorers with 29 points while also grabbing 16 rebounds.

Haddadi, named as the tournament's Most Valuable Player, simply dominated the game as his Philippine counterpart, naturalized center Marcus Douthit, missed action after aggravating an injury during the semi-finals game against South Korea on Saturday.

In the said game, the Gilas boys also fought with a lot of heart against the tall, long-time rival South Korea, which had foiled the Philippines' return to the world championships in many heartbreaking defeats in the past.

During the gold medal and semi-final matches, five-foot-eleven point guard Jayson Castro (William), one of the smallest players in the tournament, led the Philippines in scoring.

Considered as among the most consistent Gilas players througout the entire competition, Castro was named as one of the best point guards in Asia when he earned a place in the "Mythical Five" at the end of the tournament.

Gilas' homegrown 'bigs' step up in Douthit's absence By Aldo Avinante (philstar.com) | Updated August 11, 2013 - 1:33am 1 987 googleplus0 0

Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes (left) with Ranidel de Ocampo (second from right) and Marc Pingris (first from right) all break down in an emotional post-game presscon after beating Korea, 87-76, in the semifinal round to enter the finals of the FIBA Asia Championship and more importantly, assure themselves of a spot in the FIBA World Cup in Spain next year. Alder Almo

MANILA, Philippines – Undersized in terms of height but their big hearts proved to be their might.

Marc Pingris and Ranidel De Ocampo are considered small for their position in the international game but when the anchor of the Philippine team Marcus Douthit suffered an ill-fated injury in the second quarter, both players listed at 6’4 stood their ground and held down the fort for Gilas Pilipinas.

Pingris and De Ocampo combined for 27 points and 16 boards in an emphatic display of determination and will to play beyond their limitations and helped Gilas Pilipinas take a 38-27 advantage in rebounding department despite the absence of prized naturalized import Douthit.

“Tinatanong namin kung makakabalik pa si Marcus pero walang makasagot at wala din siya sa bench,” said De Ocampo in an emotional postgame press conference. “Dun na talaga lumabas yung pride natin bilang mga Pilipino na ipaglalaban ang bansa natin kahit ano mangyari.”

It was all worth the pain. It was all worth the wait.

“I don’t know why anyone would want this job. We all cried in 2007 when we lost and now that we won we’re still crying,” said Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes in a euphoric atmosphere at the MOA Arena after the emotional victory that earned the country a ticket to the FIBA World Cup in Madrid, Spain next year.

And what made the victory sweeter was they did it against perennial tormentor South Korea.

“Sa lahat po ng sumusuporta sa amin, sa mga nagdasal na mga Pilipino kayo ang nagbibigay ng lakas sa amin katulad nga ng sinabi ni coach, puso lang talaga, puso lang talaga,” said Pingris, taking several pauses to gather himself in an emotional moment for the forward who had his tournament-best 16 points and 10 rebounds.

“Ginagawa namin lahat ng ito para sa bayan. Sobrang laki ng sakripisyo namin, sa PBA may sweldo kami, dito wala pero magpapakamatay talaga kami para manalo,” he added.

For De Ocampo, who have won five PBA championships with Talk n Text, what they have achieved on Saturday night, was so special and incomparable to anything they have accomplished in their career.

“Sama-sama tayo. Nagawa po natin lahat ito,” said a teary-eyed De Ocampo. “Nung nag-champion ako sa Talk N Text umiyak ako pero hindi katulad nito, sobrang hirap po ng sakripisyo namin para sa Gilas Pilipinas.”

They have all the reasons to cry unabashedly.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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