Mendoza: Why we lost the basketball gold

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It is all right to mourn our loss in SEA Games basketball. Why? Because we were not expected to lose our longest-held crown in the meet spanning 33 years.

Not to Indonesia, for Chrissakes!

Indonesia was never known to be a basketball contender—football being its pet game.

Since the 1989 SEA Games, we’ve been winning the basketball gold in dominating fashion. We’ve been that amazed that even a high school team would win with plenty to spare.

Not anymore. As the saying goes, all things must pass—including the good ones.

Going to Hanoi, we never doubted our abilities. We were going to win our 14th straight basketball gold in the biennial Games. We didn’t have a Dream Team, yes, but, hey, we had material capable of doing it. Again.

Like Letran proceeding to win the NCAA crown over ambitious Mapua, Gilas Pilipinas was also a cinch to prevail—its destiny designed almost irreversibly by the gods of the game.

For one, we had the double-trouble Ravena brothers. Troy Rosario was there, too, together with RR Pogoy and dead shot Matthew Wright.

For another, June Mar Fajardo, the country’s pillar with an unprecedented six trophies as the Most Valuable Player in the Philippine Basketball Association (MVP), unselfishly lent his 6-foot-10 frame to the national cause.

We were doing well and, in fact, we swept the first five games.

But what we had overlooked somewhat was, a rival loomed in the horizon when we weren’t looking: Indonesia quietly piling up five straight wins on its way to a coveted clash with Gilas Pilipinas for the men’s basketball gold.

We eventually lost it because we were gun-shy from three-point country.

Not Indonesia, which fired a total of 31 threes—13 of them ripping the nets. We only flung 16 triples. Only three went in.

Indonesia had three towering naturalized Caucasians against our lone, not-so-domineering Mo Tautuaa. Six-foot-10 import Marques Bolden became Indonesia’s surprise package.

Sparingly used in the first five games to hide his skills, Bolden was soaked in Game Six for 32 minutes. He scored 18 killer points and grabbed 10 crucial rebounds to spark Indonesia’s title-clinching 85-81 victory over a stunned Gilas.

More Kleenex for Gilas coach Chot Reyes, please?

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