‘A lucky shot.’
Korea head coach Cho Sanghyun could only put it that way as he recalled the wild buzzer-beater SJ Belangel made that dealt the East Asian cagers a stinging 78-81 defeat in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers, Wednesday night.
The continental powerhouse had its sights set on casting another curse to Gilas Pilipinas, as it has done for decades. But it saw those plans spoiled while the heady guard weaved his magic by banking in a one-foot triple.
Cho said that they actually planned to switch on defense to prevent giving the Filipino dribblers any space to shoot. Lady Luck smiled on the home team, though, and the young coach could only concede.
“We actually planned out a switch from that last two seconds so that there’s no space for a second shot,” he said through a translator post-game.
“But it was a lucky shot. So there was nothing we had to… to fix it.
“But maybe, on second thought, we could have done a trap. But overall, it was a lucky shot. There was no way of defending it,” he admitted, as Belangel made the shot over the much-taller Lee Seong-hyun.
What’s even tougher to fathom for the Koreans is the fact that they were in control of the match early on. They established a lead as wide as 17, 33-16, following a Jeon Seong-hyen trey midway into the second frame.
But Tab Baldwin’s wards did not want to experience what other Gilas iterations in the past had suffered. And so they received apt reward, securing a ticket to the Jakarta tournament in the process.
The victory also marked Gilas’ first over Korea in eight years — or since that historic win by the PBA-backed crew in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship semis. That victory sent the country back to the World Cup after nearly 40 years.
The Koreans, meanwhile, suffered their first loss of the Qualifiers. They previously won first two in the opening window back in February 2020.
As heartbreaking as the loss may seem, though, Cho and his wards aren’t sweating it that much. Instead, they are charging it to experience.
“It is just the beginning of our new journey, because I just became the head coach of the Korean national basketball team,” said the 44-year-old, whose appointment as the team’s chief mentor came last May.
“We have a lot of games coming up. We got time to prepare ourselves, and we got time to improve ourselves.”