Gilas Cadets escape Thailand to make it to SEA Games basketball finals
SINGAPORE—Far from its ruthless form, Sinag Pilipinas barely made it to the men’s basketball finals of the 28th Southeast Asian Games.
Kiefer Ravena knocked down an explosive three with 16.2 seconds left as Sinag Pilipinas survived an 80-75 cliffhanger against Thailand Sunday night at the jampacked OCBC Arena here.
Ravena’s triple along with several heroic deeds by Troy Rosario and Almond Vosotros became their passport to the gold-medal trip Monday that nearly slipped away.
The Gilas Cadets, the heavy favorites to win the gold, needed to come back from an 11-point deficit and survive the Thais late to avoid the biggest upset of perhaps this SEA Games.
“We’re used to handling pressure in the UAAP. I just want to go out there and win,’’ said Ravena after they came out of a 10-point hole at halftime that they dug for themselves.
It was the tightest match by far for the Nationals after sweeping the opposition in the elimination round by an average of 62 points.
The Philippines faces the winner of the Singapore-Indonesia in the other semifinal late Sunday night.
They were dangerously close to the edge when Vosotros swished a stream of three-pointers in the second half and Rosario, dominating the paint with his athleticism, came to the rescue.
Rosario had 27 points and 12 rebounds while Vosotros, the smallest man of the floor, came through with six threes, including the go-ahead triple late in the third that completely erased Thailand’s double-digit lead.
Though the cadet squad of the Gilas program remains on track to claim the country’s 17th cage title in these Games, head coach Tab Baldwin was visibly not happy about it.
“We fought against a professional team and the countries in Southeast Asia are improving because of the ABL (Asean Basketball League) where this team has been playing,’’ said head coach Tab Baldwin.
“We expect the same difficult situation if ever we play Singapore in the finals,’’ he added.
The Singaporeans have also won all of their games capped by a victory over perennial silver medalist Thailand the other night.
Except for the 1989 Kuala Lumpur Games where the hosts reigned, the Philippines has never lost the title since 1977.
The Thais seemed headed on altering that trend as the most followed team in the basketball-crazed archipelago struggled big time in the face of the opponents pesky zone defense.
The Filipinos were able to break it when the 5-foot-6 Vosotros began puncturing the hoops from treyland in succession in the third period.
The Philippine men’s basketball team averted a major disaster after escaping Thailand, 80-75, barely making it to the gold medal round in the 28th Southeast Asian Games in Singapore. Mark Giongco/CFC
PHILIPPINES 80—Rosario 27, Vosotros 18, Ravena 12, Ferrer 7, Khobuntin 5, Douthit 4, Belo 4, Amer 3, Thompson 0, Jalalon 0, Torres 0, Rivero 0.
THAILAND 75—Muangboon 15, Kruatiwa 15, Dasom 12, Apiromvilaichai 11, Ghogar 9, Samerjai 7, Chanthachon 4, Kongkum 2, Lertmalaiporn 0.
Quarters: 14-22, 33-43, 59-56, 80-75
News and features about 2017 Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from August 19-30. Visit http://inq.news/seagames.
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