MANILA, Philippines -- Jimmy Alapag still has vivid memories of Gilas Pilipinas' classic game against South Korea in the semifinals of the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship -- a game that holds a special place in the hearts of Filipino basketball fans.
The Philippines won that game, 86-79, to advance to the gold medal game and secure their place in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain the following year. It was Alapag who drilled the biggest shot of the game, a clutch three-pointer with 54 seconds left that gave Gilas Pilipinas an 84-79 advantage.
In an interview with FIBA Asia, Alapag recalled the sequence that led to the biggest shot of his career.
"Coach Chot (Reyes) had put the ball in my hands, but it wasn't necessarily to score," he said. "It was just to create, and Marc Pingris sets a great screen. I'm at the top of the key, and I had some space."
"As soon as I got that space, it was a shot that I had practiced thousands of times. As soon as I got the space, I let it go," he added. "If you watch the video, I hold my follow-through for as long as I've ever held in my life, just to really be sure the ball would go in, and it fell through."
The three-pointer was the highlight of the Philippines' remarkable run in the FIBA Asia Championship, which ended the country's nearly four-decade long absence in the world stage. That they lost to Iran in the gold medal game was but a footnote in the team's story.
For Alapag, what sticks out is the poise with which Gilas Pilipinas approached the game.
South Korea had overtaken them late, but triples by Alapag and Ranidel de Ocampo in the final three minutes pushed the hosts back ahead, before the "Mighty Mouse" drained the dagger.
"I remember Coach Chot had called a timeout. I remember that timeout, again this was seven years ago. I still remember that timeout pretty vividly because the one thing that stood out was there was no panic," Alapag revealed.
"I think that credit goes to our coaching staff and the guys on that particular team, a lot of guys with championship experience," he added. "That moment I felt like we knew that was our moment as a team, and the guys stepped up, and we were able to get it done."
Alapag finished the game with 14 points.
Aside from Alapag, also shining in that game against South Korea was Jayson Castro, who had 17 points and 4 assists, carrying the Philippines' offense when naturalized player Marcus Douthit exited in the second quarter due to a calf injury.
Here is the full ABS-CBN News report from the game.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).