Gilas Pilipinas conquered new heights as it dominated the 3×3 events of the 30th Southeast Asian Games yesterday at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Composed of Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) players, the men’s squad creamed Indonesia, 21-9, to bring home the gold medal in this event that is being played in this prestigious multi-sport tournament for the first time.
Prior to that, the women’s squad hammered a convincing 17-13 win over Thailand to grab the mint.
Afril Bernardo brought her A-game despite playing with a swollen thumb to deliver the clutch baskets for the Filipinas, who avenged their 20-22 setback to the Thais in the opener en route to the golden triumph.
Head coach Patrick Aquino, winning the gold medal boosts their morale heading into the regular 5×5 tourney, where they are looking to finally clinch the gold medal after two heartbreaking finishes in Singapore in 2015 and Kuala Lumpur in 2017.
“This win is very special because we pocketed a gold medal in front our countrymen. I hope this win will serve as a motivation in our 5×5 tournament,” said Aquino, lauding the big fighting heart of the sweet-shooting Bernardo.
“Yes, she sprained her thumb and was playing through pain. I just don’t know how she managed to play.”
Former National University standout Jack Animam and veteran guard Janine Pontejos nailed three markers apiece for the Philippines, who drew a lot of defensive spunk from Clare Castro.
The 27-year-old Pontejos, a standout for Centro Escolar University, said she hopes that their victory would spark the popularity of 3×3, an entirely new discipline that would be played in the Tokyo Olympics next year.
“We hope that with this win, we can revolutionize women’s basketball program in the country, especially 3×3,” she said.
Still, the men’s squad was the toast of the tournament.
Bannered by FIBA World Cup veteran CJ Perez of Columbian Dyip with newbies Mo Tautuaa of San Miguel Beer, Chris Newsome of Meralco and Jason Perkins of Phoenix Pulse, Gilas swept all of its eight games — six in the preliminaries and two in the playoffs.
But winning via sweep wasn’t easy.
“It was not easy. It was challenging,” said Gilas coach Ronnie Magsanoc, an assistant coach at Meralco.
“We are thankful to the PBA because they gave us the players and gave us a 14-man pool where we can choose from.”
Drawing cheers from the massive weekday crowd, the Nationals jumped the gun early and clobbered the stunned Indonesian side in just eight minutes.
Perez, the top overall pick in last year’s PBA Rookie Draft, outscored the entire Indonesian squad with 10 point while Newsome and Perkins chalked up four points apiece for the Nationals, who drew the game-winning basket from Tautuaa with still 2:25 left in the contest.