As he made his last shot of the game, Jimmy Alapag gave Gilas a 5-pt lead vs. Senagal, 81-76, and more importantly the assurance that finally the Philippines will not go home empty-handed after 5 games in the biggest basketball tournament in the world.
No more hearbreaks this time. No more what-could-have beens. No more missed opportunities.
Had the Gilas lost, the tournament will be remembered as a tournament of near-misses and hearbreaks as defeats against Croatia, Argentina and Puerto Rico were all winnable in the dying seconds of the game.
The team will just be all heart, no brains. All nerves, no composure. The team that wilted under pressure. The team that were just happy to play alongside NBA-pedigree layers. The team that were just too star-strucked that they forgot their own brilliance.
But there was Alapag.
He made sure that it was not just all heart, PUSO, and no wins.
He set the tone at the start of the 4th canto with a thumping 4-pt play off a screen to give the Philippines a 9-pt lead, 53-44. His 12pts in the 4th and OT periods carried the load of the team with Fajardo and Blatche both making 8 pts during the same period before the latter fouled out midway in overtime.
With Castro sidelined and fellow backcourt duo Tenorio and Lee blowing hot and cold, it was Alapag who took control of the team when Senegal made their last surge late in the game.He shot 6-out-of-8 free throws in OT, one of his misses came off a hard foul during a breakaway. Despite the fall, he carried on playing, draining 5 more charities en route to an 18-pt swan song performance.
It was Alapag’s last game in the international stage. And just like his last shot of the game, he made sure that it will count.
Senegal made a three after that. But it doesn’t matter. Final Score: 81-79. A win for the Philippines. After almost 4 decades.
In world basketball, the Philippines have arrived.
And Alapag, all 36 years of him, took the lead, in possibly his last game for the country.
We will forever be grateful for him and the rest of Gilas Pilipinas. #PUSO