top of page

Gilas, Filipinas, Ginebra, La Salle weave biggest sports stories of 2023

December 31 ------ HISTORIC moments were not lacking in Philippine sports despite facing yet another challenging time in the year about to end. Filipino athletes, ever the resilient, rose once again to the occasion and gave this country of more than 100 million people something to cheer about notwithstanding the usual dilemma and concerns that confront local sports through the years. Take a bow, EJ Obiena, Gilas Pilipinas, Filipinas women’s football team, and the rest who made their mark and presence felt in the year 2023 



Hands down the most inspiring story of the year after ending a long, 62-year dry spell by winning the men's basketball gold medal of the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. The team of coach Tim Cone overcame a last-minute roster dilemma, a huge second half lead by host China before rallying for an epic 77-76 semifinals win behind the heroics of Justin Brownlee, then pulling off an 80-70 victory over elimination-round tormentor Jordan to bag the gold for the very first time after six decades. The legendary team of the late Carlos Loyzaga was the last Philippine side to win the Asiad gold during the 1962 edition of the meet in Bangkok, Thailand. 



What a year it was for the face of Philippine athletics. The 28-year-old pole vaulter won gold medals in the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, Asian Athletics Championship in Bangkok, Thailand, and 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia in record-breaking fashion. He also clinched a historic silver medal in the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary and made it to the ultra-elite 6.0- meter club for the very first time during the Sparebanken Vest Bergen Jump Challenge. He ended 2023 as the world’s No. 2 ranked pole vaulter and secured a second straight Olympic berth at the 2024 Paris Games. 



Carved out history by making it to the FIFA Women's World Cup for the first time ever. And the team made the most out of the opportunity by scoring a 1-0 stunner against host New Zealand as Sarina Bolden etched her name in Philippine football history by scoring the breakthrough goal. The overachieving team failed to advance to the knockout stage though, but nonetheless made the stint a truly memorable one. 



With EJ Obiena and Gilas Pilipinas leading the way, the country achieved its best finish in the Hangzhou Asian Games at 17th place with its four gold, two silver, and 12 bronze tally. The finish surpassed the 18th place ranking it attained during the 1994 edition of the meet in Hiroshima, Japan. Obiena reset the new meet record in winning the pole vault gold, the men’s national cage team stunned host China in the semifinals and took care of business against Jordan in the finals to regain back the gold it last held in 1962 yet, while the jiu-jitsu pair of Meggie Ochoa and Annie Ramirez accounted for the two other golds to equal the gold haul of the country in the previous Asiad in Palembang, Indonesia five years ago. 



The Green Archers ended a seven-year title drought to finally win back the UAAP men's basketball championship, defeating a star-studded University of the Philippines side, 73-69, in their winner-take-all encounter before a record crowd of 25,192 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Going to the finals, the second-seeded Green Archers of rookie coach Topex Robinson won their last nine games, lost Game 1 of the finals by 30 points, but swept the last two games of the title series to bring the championship back at Vito Cruz and claim their first UAAP crown since 2016. Big man Kevin Quiambao was named MVP of both the regular season and finals series. 



Thirty years after, the Red Lions finally had their payback against the Mapua Cardinals. The Mendiola-based school bounced back from its Game 1 loss and swept the next two matches including a 76-66 win in a do-or-die Game 3 to emerge NCAA men's basketball champions anew after five years. Jacob Cortez, Yukien Andrada and Mike Payosing delivered in the clutch for the Red Lions, who last reigned as champions in the 2018 season when they won back-to-back titles. But more importantly, the title avenged their heartbreaking 1991 loss to the same team when former PBA player Benny Cheng scored on a putback for the game winner for the Cardinals in the do-or-die Game 3 at the Philsports Arena (them known as ULTRA). 



This one went under the radar, but it was certainly one of the biggest upsets in college basketball for the year. Former national coach Haydee Ong and the rest of the UST Tigresses ended the seven-year reign of the National University Lady Bulldogs by pulling off a dramatic 71-69 come-from-behind win against the defending champions in the deciding Game 3 of the finals. Seeded No. 2, the Espana based team came back from 15 points down in the third quarter to complete the upset and win back the title it last held in 2006. Tantoy Ferrer came back from a season-long layoff due to an ACL Injury to help UST regain the crown and was named Finals MVP. 



The country hosted basketball's biggest event after 45 years and came out with flying colors. With the Manny V. Pangilinan group teaming up with the San Miguel Corporation of Ramon S. Ang, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) pulled off one of the most successful hostings ever in FIBA World Cup history, drawing a record crowd of 38,115 during the opening game between Gilas Pilipinas and Dominican Republic led by Karl Anthony Towns at the Philippine Arena. Germany beat Serbia for the championship of the tournament which the Philippines last hosted in 1978 at the iconic Araneta Coliseum. 



Tim Cone and Barangay Ginebra overcame their stiffest challenge by conquering guest team Bay Area Dragons in do-or-die Game 7 for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup championship, 114-99. The winner-take-all set a new league record crowd of 54,589 which filled up the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. Christian Standhardinger was named Finals MVP. 



World-class Filipino bets EJ Obiena and Carlos Yulo anchored the country’s challenging campaign in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia. Yulo won two golds in gymnastics, while Obiena remained untouchable in men’s pole vault as they spearheaded the Philippines' haul of 58 gold, 85 silver, and 117 bronze medals to finish fifth place. The figures surpassed the 52-70-105 medal haul the Filipinos’ had the year before in Vietnam. The campaign was capped by Gilas Pilipinas successfully regaining the men’s basketball gold behind an 80-69 payback against Cambodia in the finals. Heavily reinforced by naturalized players, the host earlier beat the Filipinos during the eliminations, 79-68, in an embarrassing loss that almost cost the head of coach Chot Reyes. 


OTHER NOTABLES: June Mar Fajardo winning a record seventh PBA MVP award, Caloy Yulo bagging golds in the FIG World Cup series and Asian Artistic Gymnastics Championships, Johann Chua and James Aranas regaining the World Cup of Pool 9-Ball Championship, the late Caloy Loyzaga’s induction to the FIBA Hall of Fame, Chezka Centeno ruling the Women’s World 10-Ball Championship, Justin Brownlee failing the Asian Games doping test, the disbandment of PVL team F2 Logistics, Marlon Tapales challenging unbeaten Naoya Inoue for the undisputed world super-bantamweight championship, and the death of PBA great Avelino ‘Samboy’ Lim. 




bottom of page