Bull session, bull fight keep Gilas bond tight

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Jared Dillinger and the rest of Gilas Pilipinas watch a bull fight prior to their merciless 89-58 win over ACB Select Team. Photo taken from Jared Dillinger’s instagram account

MANILA, Philippines – A bull session and watching a bull fight have led to Gilas Pilipinas’ merciless 89-58 beating of the ACB selection on Sunday night (early Monday Manila time) at the Mendizorrotza Stadium in Vitoria, Spain.

It was their third tuneup game since the arrival of new naturalized center Andray Blatche. Their perfect record so far has shown Gilas’ unbreakable bond.

More than the big margin of victories, Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes saw bigger satisfaction to see the team play unselfish basketball which is a product of the team’s bond off the court in the camp.

“Well, the thing that I like most was the ball movement, the selflessness and the willingness to share the basketball,” Reyes said after win over the selection of Spanish pro league players.

The Phl team is religiously practicing twice-a-day since its training camp began in Miami, Florida a couple of weeks back. But in between practices, the team either goes out or stay at the hotel enjoying each other’s company.

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A couple of days prior to their first tuneup game in Spain, the team had a bull session and let out all their inhibitions that made the team closer especially to new naturalized center Andray Blatche, who is just starting to be comfortable with his new teammates.  

After practice the next day, the team went on to watch a bull fight at Plaza de Toros de Vitoria.

It was what the visual inspiration they needed to pump them up as they went on to attack the ACB Select Team like a mad bull ramming into a Spanish matador.

The team’s confidence is growing by the day as much as their bond is getting tighter.   

They started the morning of game day with a Catholic mass at the Basilica De Armentia, a small church near their hotel.  

Their steadfast faith has rewarded them with this trip to Spain, to play against the world’s best.

Gilas’ youngest player June Mar Fajardo may have summed up the team’s mental approach heading into the FIBA World Cup which features the best 24 nations around the globe.

Dati pinapangarap lang natin ‘tong [FIBA] World Cup, ngayon nandito na tayo. Bakit hindi na natin sagarin mangarap na manalo,” Fajardo innocently told the team during their first huddle upon arrival in Spain.

It might be a stretch to ask for the moon but Gilas’ nothing-to-lose-but-everything-to-gain attitude has served the team well during their epic silver medal run in the FIBA Asia Men’s Championship last year.

Reyes has set a modest goal of trying to win a game or two in the first round and hopes to hit the jackpot of advancing to the next round where a dream duel with projected Group A top seed Spain awaits.

On their first practice at Mendizorrotza Stadium, Reyes asked the team to close their eyes and imagine a jampacked stadium rooting against them.  

When Gilas Pilipinas was formed, it was received with skepticism. Nobody believed that the country will return to the world stage this soon.  But team defied all odds with their heart mightier than the height of their opponents, well, except Hamed Haddadi and Iran in the gold medal game.

They dared to dream and have put in the work.  

Now, they are in Spain living the dream and hoping to stretch it some more. 

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