Gilas Pilipinas fulfilled the inevitable Monday night, throwing in a golden double to boot in ruling the first staging of 3×3 basketball in the Southeast Asian Games.
Bigger and simply far better than the rest of the opposition, the Philippines ripped Indonesia to shreds, 21-9, for the men’s gold medal at Filoil Flying V Centre.
Men’s basketball has been the Philippines’ private playground in the 30-edition history of the regional Olympics, but a less-heralded squad also turned up the heat—and the crowd volume—to add to basketball glory.
The Gilas Pilipinas’ women’s squad actually struck first, fending off Thailand, 17-13, in the final.
Afril Bernardino was all heart as she led the Philippines to the gold despite aggravating a sprained left thumb.
Bernardino’s brilliance didn’t go unnoticed as she drew MVP chants from the crowd after erupting for 10 points, mostly on daredevil drives to the basket.
“I’m just so happy for the girls, especially for women’s basketball. This is our first time to compete in 3×3 and we won our gold. History again,” national team coach Pat Aquino said.
“I hope that with this win, with this gold medal, all the hard work of the girls will be recognized,” Aquino, who also coaches the women’s 5-on-5 squad,” added. “We’re so proud of them. All their hard work, all their sacrifices. They really love basketball. This is for the country.”
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio was just as ecstatic over the women’s victory, noting that the country had never gotten a gold in the sport before.
“The Gilas Pilipinas women 3×3 team [made] history again by scoring the first SEA Games medal for the Philippines in women’s basketball,” Panlilio said in a statement. “I hope the team enjoys this victory, but we still have more medals to win.”
The men certainly answered that call. And while their female counterparts needed to weather a late surge by the Thais, the team that beat them in the preliminaries, the all-PBA squad settled the issue rather anticlimactically.
CJ Perez scored 10 points to lead the men’s squad in the finals and highlighted his stint with a thunderous dunk that posterized his Indonesian defender.
Jason Perkins and Mo Tautuaa dominated the paint while Chris Newsome provided steady quarterbacking for the victory.
The 3×3 golds set the stage for the main basketball competition, where coach Tim Cone’s star-filled Gilas Pilipinas is expected to shred rivals on the way to the gold.
The women’s team, meanwhile, hopes to scale the odds and capture its first SEA Games gold medal. INQ
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