MANILA, Philippines - For bucking overwhelming odds and finishing runner-up in the FIBA Asia Championship to make it back to the World Championship for the first time in more than three decades, Gilas Pilipinas won the coveted PSA (Philippine Sportswriters Association) 2013 Athlete of the Year award.
The high-profiled cage squad, headed by coach Chot Reyes, will lead the long list of athletes, personalities, and entities to be honored by the oldest media organization in the country during its Annual Awards Night at the Solaire Resort and Casino on Jan. 25.
It will be star-studded affair with boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, back from back-to-back setbacks with an emphatic victory over Brandon Rios last November, as the event’s special guest and speaker.
In the match that mattered last August, the nation watched history unfold as Gilas Pilipinas fought an epic battle with an old tough rival in South Korea, pulling through to bring the country back into the world basketball stage.
That did not only avenge a string of heart-breaking losses to South Korea in Busan, Tianjin and Wuhan but it also gained the Philippines outright passage to the 2014 World Championship.
It was one big feat that erased bitter memories of the Filipinos’ past debacles on the international stage as the Nationals beat the sleek and sweet-shooting Koreans for the first time in a long while and thus accomplished the very goal they set out for in the FIBA Asia championship that was held in the country for the first time in 30 years.
The stirring feat was also the highest finish a men’s national basketball team achieved in a meet of this magnitude since Northern Consolidated Corp. won it all during the 1985 edition of the tournament then still known as the Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) Championship, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The runner-up finish may have come short of approximating the achievements of past national teams which went all the way to win the gold.
But for a group whose modest goal was to accomplish a podium finish and punch its way to a ticket to the 2014 FIBA-World Cup in Spain, Gilas Pilipinas certainly more than exceeded the expectations of many with its improbable run in the world championship qualifier.
Gilas Pilipinas became just the fourth team to be recognized as Athlete of the Year by the sports organization composed of editors, writers, and columnists from the national dailies, tabloids, and website.
Previous group winners include Team Philippines (2005), Ateneo Blue Eagles (2012), and Team Manila (2012).
Others to be given are the Presidential Achievement Award, Executive of the Year, Major Awards, NSA of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award, Milo Junior Athlete Awards, Sixth Man Award, Mr. Football, Miss Volleyball, and Tony Siddayao Award for deserving youth athletes.
The gold medalists in the recent Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar will also be cited, while dearly departed friends in Philippine sports will also be honored posthumously.
The PSA Awards Night is held in partnership with Smart Sports, Milo, Philippine Sports Commission, Air21, Globalport, Rain or Shine, Senator Chiz Escudero, Philippine Basketball Association, Accel, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and ICTSI-Philippine Golf Tour.