Alapag, Belga elated with Gilas win vs old foe Iran
MANILA, Philippines – Jimmy Alapag and Beau Belga, members of the Gilas Pilipinas squad that won silver in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, felt vindicated with the current national team’s upset of rival Iran in the ongoing continental tilt in China.
“Oo naman, ganoon naman e. Saluhan lang yan, tinalo tayo last time so tinalo naman sila this time,” Belga told Rappler in a phone interview when asked if he felt the redemption with Gilas’ 87-73 victory over defending champions Iran on Monday, September 28. (Of course, that’s the way it is. It’s having each other’s backs, we were beaten last time so they were defeated now.)
Belga, 28, was a reserve for Gilas 2.0 under former coach Chot Reyes a couple years ago. He was the last man cut from the pool but stayed with the team all throughout the Asian cage wars held in Manila. As a reserve, he did not get a silver medal but team manager Butch Antonio reportedly gave up his medal for the dedicated big man.
“I’m happy because we only beat Iran several times and we won by a large margin. Convincing win,” he said in Filipino.
Alapag, the former Gilas team captain and longtime national team veteran, was likewise ecstatic over the rare win against the 17th ranked team led by 7-foot-2 behemoth Hamed Haddadi.
“I’m just really happy for the guys. It’s such a tough task to beat a team like Iran,” said Alapag, who bared he had the biggest smile on his face upon hearing of the win. “At the end of the day we’re all still a family. I couldn’t be happier for those guys to get a big win at this stage of the tournament.”
The 37-year old Alapag, who played in 2013 and in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, was a part of the Gilas pool up until the William Jones Cup last month. But he did not make the final line-up due to injury.
“I think in the Jones Cup the team showed they can play at a high level. It was just a matter of sustaining that,” observed Alapag. “I think the first round, I saw them steadily improve. Obviously you never wanna lose early in the tournament but it was a loss that we can afford.
“I think it definitely was a wake-up call for the guys. You see them locked in and focused and you get today’s results.” (WATCH: How Gilas overcame Iran at FIBA Asia)
Both players monitored the big game as best they could. Alapag, though unable to watch as he practiced with Meralco, made sure to get updates and said he won’t miss the replay.
Belga watched on his laptop right after Rain or Shine practice together with head coach Yeng Guiao and assistant coach Caloy Garcia. Once the final buzzer sounded, all 3 broke out in applause. “We looked like we were crazy,” Belga quipped.
Though rivals with Calvin Abueva in the PBA, Belga has every belief the Alaska banger is instrumental to the national team, as evidenced by the instance Abueva drew the foul on Haddadi and caused the big man to foul out with under 4 minutes left to play.
“Hindi siya sanay kay Calvin e. Nautakan siya ni Calvin,” he said chuckling. “Malaking bagay si Calvin sa Gilas kasi hustle play, depensa, halos lahat ng lob pass kay Haddadi na-intercept ni Calvin.” (He’s not used to Calvin. Calvin outsmarted him. Calvin is a big help for Gilas with the hustle play and defense. Almost every lob pass to Haddad was intercepted by Calvin.)
While Alapag is even prouder of his former teammate Jayson Castro, who led Gilas with an explosive 26-point performance. (WATCH: Jayson Castro's monster game vs Iran)
“I think it’s safe to say he’s a veteran now especially when it comes to international competition,” he said. “His leadership and his play is really setting the tone for the rest of the guys.” (READ: Jayson Castro is still the best point guard in Asia)
Both players believe Gilas 3.0 is ready to become Asia’s top basketball team. The nationals are eyeing the gold medal and the outright 2016 Summer Olympics berth.
“I think this definitely shows what this version of Gilas is capable of,” Alapag mused. “I fully believe they’ll give us a great chance to beat them (Iran) in the end.”
Alapag and Belga were 1,727 kilometers away from their Gilas brothers, but the sweet, glorious taste of redemption against a perpetual tormentor was felt just the same. – Rappler.com