When it comes to the FIBA World Cup, the major non-professional world championship for basketball, the Philippines has recently been experiencing as string of disappointments and frustrations. The epic struggle for qualification by the Philippine team – Smart Gilas – in the 2013 Asia qualifiers led to only 1 win out of five games in its bracket during the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain. During the hosting bid for the 2019 Cup, the country’s emotional presentation was beaten by China’s boast that they could already host the event the following day. Now, in the Asia qualifiers for said Cup, Team Gilas finds itself in another pickle following a brawl with Australia.
CNN Philippines reports that the Philippine national basketball team lost by default to the Australians in the third-window match for Group B of the FIBA World Cup Asia qualifiers, which was played in Bocaue on Monday, July 2. The Philippines already lost to Australia in a prior game within this grouping, 84-68 last February 22. On their rematch, the sheer physicality and constant hard contact between players culminated in an incident on the third quarter. Team Philippines’ R.R. Pogoy accidentally elbowed Chris Golding of Australia, causing his teammate Daniel Kickert to shove back at Pogoy.
This triggered a “court-clearing brawl” between players of both teams that even spilled into the sidelines at one end of the court. Once tempers cooled, officials ejected nine Gilas players (Pogoy, Gilas players Calvin Abueva, Japeth Aguilar, Andray Blatche, Jayson Castro, Carl Bryan Cruz, Terrence Romeo, Troy Rosario, Matthew Wright), and four Australians (Goulding, Kickert, Thon Maker, Nathan Sobey) from play – 13 players total. This however left the Philippines with only three men on court while the opposing team could still field five.
Against lopsided odds, Gilas players Gabe Norwood and June Mar Fajardo saw no choice but to foul themselves out in last-stand attempts to close the score gap. With only Baser Amer left to play, officials called the game with only two minutes left in Q3, Australia winning it by default at 89-53.
A post-game statement by FIBA has the federation planning to open disciplinary actions against both the Philippines and Australia for their unsportsmanlike outburst. Following the Qualifiers’ Group B conclusion the Australians (5-1), Gilas (4-2) and Japan (2-4) stand to qualify for 2019 World Cup play, but any FIBA decision, due a few days from now, might potentially lock out the Philippines and Australia from the tournament in the worst-case scenario.
Such a possible outcome could damage the country’s FIBA aspirations even further if it plays out that way. Not even the country’s joint hosting of the 2023 World Cup, alongside Indonesia and Japan, would be able to assuage that embarrassment.
Image courtesy of ABC News Australia