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1954: Memorable for PH basketball


PhilBoxing.com



PH team captain Rafael Hechanova.

Year 1954 went into the records as the most memorable moment in the history of Philippine basketball.


In a span of six months, Filipino basketeers scored a double whammy by, first, retaining the Asian Games crown won by their predecessors four years previous in 1951 before travelling in far away Rio de Janeiro in Brazil where they romped off with the bronze medal by way of ending up third in the field of nine teams, including eventual champion the United States and host Brazil.

The team, made up of seven Olympians – Rafael Hechanova, Carlos Loyzaga, Pons Saldana, Mariano Tolentino, Florentino Bautista, Eduardo Lim and Antonio Genato (all of 1952 Games), and Lauro Mumar (1948 London) and reinforced by young MCAA, NCAA and UAAP stalwarts, regaled the thousands that trooped to the Rizal Memorial Coliseum who watched their countrymen demolished all that crossed their path.

Other members of the team, acknowledged as the strongest ever assembled for international competitions, were Bayani Amador, Jose Ma. Cacho, Napoleon Flores, Ramon Manulat, Francisco Rabat and Ignacio Ramos. Coach was Herminio “Herr’ Silva.

Like their 1951 counterparts in the First Asiad held in New Delhi, Hechanova ran roughshod the opposition with lopsided victories over Singapore, 82-63; Cambodia, 105-41; South Korea, 84-45; Japan, 68-40; South Korea again in the semifinals, 78-52; and Republic of China (now Chinese-Taipei), 34-27 in the gold medal play.

The Philippine ROC finale could have also been one-sided but for a tactic cooked by coach Silva, which later helped revolutionize the game.

The strategy, masterminded by Silva, would be remembered as the “longest freeze” in all of basketball history that gained for the wily Filipino guru, and the country as well, international fame.

Amador, who was to become an councilor in Binan, Laguna, recalled during a meeting with sports media men at the Memorial Café, a favorite hangout among sports leaders, athletes, coaches and spotswriters until the early 90s, Silva ordered his men to employ his well-thought-out tactic that denied the Formosans possession in almost the entire second half.

With barely a minute and 15 seconds gone in the second half, and with Genato and Ramos displaying their dribbling prowess, the Filipinos paralyzed the enemies with ball-handling magnificence for full 19 minutes until the last whistle sounded signalling the host country had won its back-to-back basketball plum.

Years later the world ruling body of the dribble-and-shoot sport– the International Basketball Federation – prescribed a 30-second limit for a team to shoot the ball upon gaining possession and allow the opposing squad possession of the leather.

The Asiad gold medallist team of Silva, with minor changes, travelled to Rio de Janeiro six months later in October that historic year for the World Championship.

Skipper Hechanova begged off from the Brazilian sojourn when he got married after the Games. Same with Cacho, Lim and Ramos, who, for one reason or another didn’t make it, too.

They were replaced by Benjamin Francisco, and Rafael Barreto with Francis Wilson and Alfredo Sagabarria joining the trip as alternates. Mumar was named team captain in lieu Hechanova. (That’s another story).

The basketball team’s gold medal turned out to be the Philippines delegation’s 14th as the Filipinos’ remained, too, the second best sporting nation this part of the world, next only to Japan, which also emerged the overall champion in New Delhi.

Rounding out the country’s gold, medal harvest was five in boxing, and four each in swimming and shooting.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Eddie Alinea.


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