A member of the Palestinian team that faced Gilas Pilipinas admitted that they came in as the underdogs in the FIBA Asia match that saw them beating the more fancied Filipino squad.
Sani Sakakini, the vital cog that spurred Palestine’s 75-73 victory over Gilas, said nobody expected them to win.
“In [the] rankings we’re not supposed to win - but on court we played for the win,” said Sakakini, who had a 22-point effort for Palestine.
It was his 3-point play during crunch time that pushed his team past Gilas, which was ranked third just behind Iran and China in the FIBA Asia power rankings.
(READ: Gilas stunned by Palestine in FIBA Asia opener)
Palestine is a first timer in the FIBA Asia joust as the sport of basketball is still in its infancy back in their hometown.
But the Palestinians made a splash in the tournament via their upset against the more basketball savvy Filipinos.
“This is the first game in Palestine history in this tournament - we played so hard - prepared mentally for this tournament - we played hard - controlled the paint - more rebounds,” said Sakakini.
Palestine’s American coach Jerry Steele believes that one of the reasons his team was able to upset the Philippines is that they faced a difficult life back in their war-torn country.
“We face a lot of difficulties, a lot of hurdles. A lot of things that are not done for us the way you normally expect. In every turn we take whatever comes,” he said.
Steele said that they only have only 10 players in their roster. Against Gilas, only 7 of them played.
“We had players who missed practice, missed the bus – consequently, they had to miss the game,” said the coach.
“For other players, Palestine is young in basketball. They don’t get to play good ball in Palestine - so when we have chance to practice, they played hard, worked hard,” said Steele. “They will continue to get better.” -- With a report from TJ Manotoc, ABS-CBN News