Gilas Pilipinas showstopper Belangel won't sit on his laurels

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 17) — Samjosef "SJ" Belangel, who made his impressive debut with Gilas Pilipinas, revealed the story behind his buzzer beater trey that turned him into a household name overnight. He also bared the young team's next moves against Indonesia and its rematch against South Korea, plus their overall goal.

Belangel helped the young national basketball men's team break the 8-year Korean curse on Wednesday after he knocked down a clutch three-pointer in the last two seconds as Gilas Pilipinas edged out South Korea, 81-78, for a fourth straight win in the third and final window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers.

He wasn't even supposed to take that clutch three-pointer. Belangel said Coach Tab Baldwin instructed Carl Tamayo to deliver the final shot and his role was simply as a decoy. But everything just fell into place for the 21-year-old baller, who delivered the heartbreaker for South Korean fans and a much-needed reprieve for Filipino fans amid the pandemic.

"Honestly po, tinarget ko lang talaga ang boarding since ‘yun ang best option sa angle ng tira ko. Tinarget ko ang board pero hindi ko in-expect na papasok since it was a difficult shot...Luckily pumasok po at napasaya ko ang buong Pilipinas," he told CNN Philippines' Sportsdesk. "Having that moment yesterday, ‘yun ang pinaka-memorable as of now sa basketball career ko."

[Translation: Honestly, I just targeted the board since that was the best option from my angle. I didn't expect it to go in, but luckily it did and I was able to make the entire country happy. Having that moment yesterday was the most memorable part of my basketball career for now.]

The guard, who hails from Bacolod, admitted the team struggled in the first quarter against the experienced South Koreans. But they were able to pick up their game in the second quarter, with Baldwin telling them to carry the momentum to the second half.

The Philippines is unbeaten at 4-0 in Group A, securing its ticket to the FIBA Asia Cup in Indonesia.

Despite the impressive start, Belangel believes Gilas has more fight left in them. He said the team is fighting complacency in their match with Indonesia on Friday. He also believes they are more ready now to take on South Korea once again on Sunday.

"We just have to review our game once again and review our mistakes knowing na nakaisa kami sa kanila [knowing we one-upped them]. Nandoon pa rin ang rivalry, hindi pa rin nawawala. Alam namin babawi sila. We'll be prepared,"

[Translation: We just have to review our game once again and review our mistakes knowing we one-upped them. The rivalry is still there. We know they will return with a vengeance. We’ll be prepared.]

Belangel said the end goal stays the same for the team: Bring home the silverware and to make the Philippines proud.

"For the team, we just want na, at the end of the day, we just have that trophy in our hands. Gusto namin mag-champion and to make everyone proud sa ating bayan. Iyon ang ultimate goal namin. As a player, hindi lang kami naglalaro para sa amin, kung hindi para sa bayan," he said.

[Translation: For the team, we just want that, at the end of the day, to just have that trophy in our hands. We want to be champions and make everyone proud. That's our ultimate goal. As players, we are not only playing for ourselves, but for our country.]