Gilas bids ‘night night’ to coach Harry Savaya, Cambodia with gold win
Gilas Pilipinas arrived in Cambodia aiming to take revenge on the Indonesia team that ended its 20-year golden streak in the Southeast Asian Games men’s basketball competition.
However, it was the Cambodians that emerged as the Filipinos’ toughest foes this time, beating them in the group stage with a new-look squad controversially composed by coach Harry Savaya of mostly naturalized players.
While many teams have used imported players at the SEA Games, lineups are rarely so devoid of home-grown talent.
Savaya incensed the Gilas Pilipinas bench during Cambodia’s shock-opening win by tilting his head onto his hands in a “night night” gesture as he called a late-game timeout.
The heat inside the non-air-conditioned basketball venue added to the gripes of the Philippine management.
The venue, filled with a partisan home crowd, was sweltering on Tuesday as Gilas Pilipinas beat the hosts, 80-69, to clinch the SEA Games men’s basketball gold medal.
The Cambodians ended the first quarter with a 22-21 lead, but the outnumbered Philippine fans made themselves heard as their side battled to a 44-33 halftime lead, thanks to 15 points from Brownlee.
The visitors then mostly held Cambodia at bay throughout the third and fourth quarters. Brownlee, playing in his first SEA Games as a naturalized player, finished with 23 points.
Savaya was a kinetic presence on the sidelines, the Lebanese-Armenian coach whipping up the home crowd. He even danced after his team shot a particularly nice three-pointer.
But the Filipino fans gleefully returned his infamous “night night” gesture as the clock ticked down and their victory became inevitable. Savaya met it with a resigned laugh.
Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes said he felt “happiness” at the final buzzer. “It’s just relief.”
“Very happy for the Filipino people,” he added.
Cambodia had already won the men’s basketball 3×3, beating the Philippines in the final more than a week ago.