PH clinches basketball title, concludes SEA Games with 29 golds
SINGAPORE—Sinag Pilipinas made sure its Southeast Asian Games basketball crown won’t land on somebody else’s head.
The Philippines extended its supremacy in the region Monday night, clipping Indonesia’s trip to glory with a 72-64 victory to claim the men’s basketball title in the 28th SEA Games here.
With history and reputation on the line, the Filipinos came close to another potential meltdown that hounded them against Thailand in the semifinals the other night before Mark Belo and Kiefer Ravena turned up the offensive attack.
“Sometimes, these team drives me crazy. But they’re just kids and they commit errors,’’ said Sinag coach Tab Baldwin.
The Nationals found the Indonesians a tough nut to crack on the path to nailing the country’s 17th cage crown in these Games.
Ahead by double-digits, the Filipinos saw the lead evaporate with Rony Gunawan’s jumper pulling the Indonesians within three halfway through the final period.
Belo used veteran guile and conspired with Ravena to fend off the Indonesian foray in front of a wildly cheering Filipino section at the OCBC Arena here as the cadet squad of the Gilas program sent the 462-athlete delegation home on the wings of victory after two gruelling weeks of competition.
Sinag’s act of triumph finally closed the lid on the Philippine campaign of 29 gold, 36 silver and 66 bronze medals, good for sixth overall among 11 countries.
Though the result didn’t exactly create tremors in the medal tally, a debacle by the Philippines in a sport closest to its heart is by no means acceptable.
Since basketball made its debut in 1977 Kuala Lumpur, the Filipinos have captured all but one of the SEA Games basketball golds and won 11th straight since Malaysia beat them to break the chain in the 1989 finale.
“This tournament’s tough. It was never easy playing against those professional teams,’’ said Baldwin.
Just like the Thais and the Singaporeans, the core of the Indonesian team also plays in the Asean Basketball League.