Dwight, Height Is Might, and Other Gilas Highlights

Gilas Pilipinas had the Philsports Arena crowd rocking in their game against Chinese Taipei.

It was a rollicking atmosphere that greeted Gilas Pilipinas for their FIBA Asia Cup 2025 qualifier game against Chinese Taipei on Sunday night at the Philsports Arena in Pasig. Gilas gave the crowd plenty to cheer for by gifting them with a 53-point blowout of the visitors that sent a warning shot to the rest of the FIBA Asia Cup field.

It was a night of delight, height is might, and Dwight. The highlights:

A throwback atmosphere

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the ULTRA (the former name of the Philsports Arena) was the place to be if you were a basketball fan. That place was rocking whenever the marquee names of the PBA – Jawo, Patrimonio, Samboy, Jolas, Caidic – held court. It was the mecca of basketball for that period of Philippine hoops history.

Philsports’ unique, compact architecture, with its steep bleachers section, creates a more intimate interaction between players and fans. You always felt like you were right in the middle of the action, even though you were in the further row of the bleachers.

Things were never quite the same after the PBA switched venues in 1993, and although the PBA still holds games there every so often, the vibe is different. And that’s why Sunday night was like a trip down Sentimental Street to see the Philsports Arena packed to the rafters with passionate fans. Even for one night only, it felt like 1988 all over again. Only now, the names on the jerseys of the players were Ramos, Sotto, Thompson, Tamayo, and Brownlee.

Gilas Pilipinas vs Chinese Taipei in FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers
The Philsports Arena was packed and rocking like it was 1988. (Photo by FIBA)
Kai Sotto stands tall

In both the literal and figurative senses, Kai did stand tall on Sunday against the overmatched Chinese Taipei defense. The seven-foot-three wunderkind had 18 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks, and a whole game’s worth of highlights on both ends of the floor.

Gilas Pilipinas coach Tim Cone was all praises for his 21-year-old center, and is confident he’ll continue to trend upwards, hopefully all the way to the pinnacle of the sport.

“He is absolutely going to dominate Asia. I’ve always felt that. You give him the right spots, he can dominate Asia. For him, the next spot is to get him to the European level and then the NBA level. And we’re hoping we can help him get into that level.

“And there might be a time when we lose Kai. He might not be able to join us because he’ll be in the NBA.”

If and when that happens, Gilas will lose a vital piece, but the Philippines will gain a new basketball hero.

Gilas Pilipinas vs Chinese Taipei in FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers
Kai Sotto stood tall against Chinese Taipei, literally and figuratively. (Photo by FIBA)
The universal appeal of Dwight Ramos

It was around the time when Gilas first entered the court for warm-ups when the crowd first went berserk. And while this lineup consisted of a PBA MVP, a UAAP MVP, a PBA Best Import, and the most recent PBA Finals MVP, make no mistake: majority of the cheers were for Dwight Ramos.

The mere sight of him sent young female fans into a screaming frenzy, the likes of which have not been heard on these shores since the Beatles arrived in 1966. Of all basketball icons, past and present, perhaps only Sonny Jaworski evoked a similar level of passion.

Every time the ball so much as grazed Dwight’s fingertips, which was often given he’s a major piece of the Gilas offense, the screams began to cascade down. And when he got the ball in transition and swooped in for a one-handed slam dunk, the place went nuts.

But it wasn’t just the female fans who swooned over him. The guy can actually play, and play really well, in such a way that he draws admiration from hardcore Filipino basketball purists.

In other words, he appeals to both the casual fan and the devoted fan in ways and on levels rarely seen in Philippine sports history. Oh, and he scored 12 points.

Banner image from FIBA.

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