Andray Blatche was in serious pain when Gilas Pilipinas faced Japan in an all-important battle to open their second round campaign in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship.
Gilas was able to close out the first half on a big run, which gave them the 35-33 edge. At that point, Blatche was already taken out of the game after spraining his right ankle.
He managed to return in the third quarter, but after a move inside the paint, he aggravated his injury. He made the basket, but came down hopping on, literally, only his left foot as he struggled to cross the half court line.
The pain Blatche felt could be seen across his face. Grimacing at the halfcourt line, he was forced to sit for the remainder of the penultimate quarter.
The Philippines was able to hold off Japan until the fourth quarter, so Blatche could have just sat down for the rest of the game, and could have gotten enough recovery heading to their titanic clash with Iran in less than 24 hours.
That would have been the top-of-the-head option, because the campaign still has a long way to go. Sacrificing a loss but having Blatche’s health preserved in time for the bigger duels would be ideal.
Seeing how vital it was for Gilas to secure a victory over Japan, however, Blatche chose to return in the fourth quarter, even if he was hobbling.
That was the point of no return. Blatche was determined enough to play his heart out, using the remaining strength that he had.
Back and forth the two sides went. Blatche was in serious pain, not being able to walk properly. It appeared like he was hapless; like cornered prey awaiting death from the final strike of its predator.
But Blatche knew better, and in some miraculous way, was able to finish the match. It was pure adrenaline. Pure guts. Second after second, moment after moment, Blatche kept pushing. No quitting. No surrender. No retreat.
He scored on a patented Eurostep move inside of the crucial moments of the game. Later he was doing crossovers against Japan’s bigs. He drove ferociously and gave Gilas a huge lift in the end. The Philippines won, 73-66.
Blatche earned even more respect for a heroic effort. Later he was embraced by the rest of his teammates before Gilas trooped to centercourt for their usual “Puso!” battlecry.
Blatche raised his right fist in celebration, and soaked in the moment.
How he did it is simply beyond comprehension.
But I guess there are times warriors simply take the risk, notwithstanding the uncertainty that follows.
They are not afraid to wage war. They don’t mind submerging themselves in difficult challenges, instead of just folding up.
In the end, it’s just winning and losing. There are no gray areas, but choosing to fold up means accepting defeat without even putting up a fight.
What if Blatche just decided to call it a night?
It would be understandable for us, but Blatche, perhaps fed up with all the scrutiny and doubt day after day after day — about his conditioning, his desire, his will to carry Gilas, time and again — showed up to shut everyone up.
He was down, but not out. He was still in it, and so Blatche made use of everything he had left.
I guess there are just certain moments you go beyond the call of duty, because in the end you know — and you can feel — that it’s worth the fight.
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