Lesson in humility
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin Henson () - August 8, 2006 - 12:00am
National basketball coach Chot Reyes said yesterday playing in the Al Emadi international championships in Qatar was "an invaluable learning experience" and because of the tough competition, the Philippine team will be better prepared for the Asian Games late this year if the Federation Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) lifts the country’s suspension and clears the way for participation.

The Philippines was winless in five games in the tournament. It remains to be seen whether the lesson in humility will benefit the national team in the long run.

In the preliminary round, the nationals lost to Qatar by 19, Latvia by eight and Angola by 15. Latvia repeated over the Philippines, 118-70, in the crossover semifinals and Reyes called the 48-point loss the worst of his career. Qatar came back from a 10-point halftime deficit to whip the Philippines, 79-68, in the battle for third last Sunday.

Reyes said the lifting of the suspension by FIBA appears imminent. The FIBA Central Board will convene during the World Championships in Japan this month and Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) officials are expected to make an appearance in the meeting to appeal for the end of the ban.

"We showed we can play well against teams with size and athletic ability," said Reyes. "I’m very, very happy and proud of our guys. We’re definitely achieving our goals. For the players and coaches, this is the kind of teams we really need to play. We can only get better for it."
* * *
Reyes said the team’s baptism of fire against host Qatar was a lesson in coping with adversity.

In the third period, he was ejected by the Greek referee who later called him an animal.

"After five downright atrocious calls, I jumped off my seat and strode to the end of our bench," recounted Reyes. "I didn’t say anything to the two referees in front of our bench. I didn’t shout or didn’t enter the playing court but the third referee, a Greek, whistled me for a technical foul from the other end of the court. This was the last straw. I walked into the court to ask him what I did to deserve the technical, forcing him to throw me out of the game.

"We were never in the game after that. At the end of the game, I approached the referee again to ask him, in a very polite way, what I did to deserve the technical. He answered, "you jumped." So I said, "so what if I jumped?" I didn’t yell or curse at the refs. I didn’t enter the playing court. In fact, I walked to the end of our bench precisely to avoid doing anything untoward. His reply shocked me. "Are you human or are you an animal?" To this, I shouted at him, "who are you calling an animal?" And he was yelling something back. Thankfully, cooler heads intervened."

Reyes said officiating was poor from the start but it got worse in the first four minutes of the third period as the team was about to make a run behind a full-court press.

Reyes singled out clear instances of unfair calls.

"Arwind Santos stole the ball and was about to start his stride for a breakaway when his man embraced him from behind, giving up a duty foul," said Reyes. "But the ref didn’t make a call. Qatar stole back and scored as we were going the other way.

"Then, in a trap, Denok Miranda stole but after two dribbles, the refs called a foul on him. In the next play, Qatar crossed the backcourt with 14 seconds left on the shot clock but there was no eight-second violation called. A few plays alter, Willie Miller drove to the hoop and the ball was deflected. Willie got it back, threw it to Mick (Pennisi) who hit a three but the refs nullified it, saying Willie stepped on the line to saving the ball. This was when I jumped off my seat."

Reyes said Qatar’s Khaled Suleyman admitted the officiating was awful.

Qatar assistant coach Stacey Hallowell and star forward Erfan Ali Saeed, a Senegal naturalized player, even apologized to Reyes.

"Filipinos working with the TV crew covering the game said Qatar TV was reprimanded by the Qatar Basketball Federation for clearly showing Willie’s foot was nowhere near the baseline when he was called for stepping," said Reyes.
* * *
Worse, organizers pulled out the spacious coaster that brought the team to the stadium and sent three dilapidated vans for the ride back to the hotel after a 30-minute wait. Reyes refused to allow the team to board the vans which were not air-conditioned and had torn upholstery and a rusty exterior.

When a tournament official asked Reyes why he wouldn’t board, the coach said, "Will you allow your family to ride that thing — we are the Philippine national team, we deserve better."

In true bayanihan fashion, Filipino fans who watched the game offered their cars to transport the team to the Central Cafe where Philippine Embassy vice-consul Jabbar Adiong hosted a late dinner.

In the first Latvia game, the Philippines was badly outrebounded, 52-30, and outscored from the free throw line, 30-15. But the Nationals were within striking distance until the final buzzer.

In the third quarter, the Filipinos came back from a 17-point deficit to cut the margin to four behind a surge ignited by Larry Fonacier and Joseph Yeo.

"The fourth quarter was played with no team giving an inch and we were in the thick of the fight all the way until we missed three straight layups near the end that sealed our doom," said Reyes. "In my post-game talk, all I could say was, ‘yan ang basketball, ganyan ang Pinoy.’ This was how we play the game."

AL EMADI ARWIND SANTOS ASIAN GAMES BUT THE NATIONALS CENTRAL BOARD CENTRAL CAFE GAME QATAR REYES TEAM
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