KUALA LUMPUR--Filipino fans would understand if their national bets lose in other sports, but giving up the Philippines’ supremacy in basketball is unthinkable, if not unforgivable.
The younger, hastily-formed Gilas Pilipinas squad made sure it will go back home with its head held up high as it crushed Indonesia, 94-55, to clinch the gold medal in the 29th Southeast Asian Games men's basketball tournament late Saturday at the MABA gymnasium here.
The final outcome told it all, the Filipinos will remain the undisputed king of basketball—the American-founded sport which the country of more than 100 million people has come to embrace as its own.
“Sabi nga e matalo na sa lahat, wag lang sa basketball,” said sports association official Monico Puentevella, who quietly was watching at the sidelines as the newly crowned champs whoop it up at the center of the court and basking in the glory of victory and shower of praises and adulation by thousands of OFWs.
“Winning this (SEA Games title) has always been special,” said Gilas stalwart Kiefer Ravena, who won his fourth SEA Games gold medal.
Ravena was part of the national squad that won the crown in 2011 in Indonesia, 2013 in Myanmar and 2015 in Singapore, making him probably the most bemedalled basketball player in the biennial meet.
Just when all his teammates seemed to be in the groove, Ravena struggled and came up with only 7 points, which he capped with a step-back shot from beyond the arc.
“Graceful exit ko un (in the game),” said the son of former, many-time national cager Bong Ravena.
Christian Karl Standhardinger, who joined the team just in time for their first game in the biennial games, said there “is nothing like wearing the word Pilipinas in my uniform, I will always cherish this.”
Mike Tolomia led the charge as the Filipinos coasted to their 12th straight gold medal in this prestigious 11-nation conclave.
Tolomia delivered 20 points, four rebounds and three assists while Kobe Paras chipped in 12 markers and three rebounds for Gilas Pilipinas, which led by as much as 39, 91-52, en route to victory.
"We shot the ball very well tonight," said Gilas coach Jong Uichico. "And we kept our heads up in playing great defense the whole game."
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