For the Philippine Men’s National Basketball Team, Gilas Pilipinas, the earlier part of the year has been a disappointing slog. No more was this evident than in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Hosted by China, which beat the country’s hosting bid back in 2015, the tournament saw Gilas be subjected to one crushing defeat after another, losing all games played even as the squad was still smarting from the suspensions earned in the qualifiers due to the court brawl against Australia. The team needed a chance to make it up to Filipino fans, and they got it this week in the 2019 SEA Games.
As CNN Philippines has it, Gilas Pilipinas has been having grand time recovering from its humiliating FIFA Basketball World Cup run this year, by utterly schooling every other Southeast Asian team they have been matched against in the 2019 SEA Games 5×5 men’s basketball competition. When they started play in December 4, they rolled over Singapore despite missing a 3-point shot and some free throws during the initial minutes. Their next opponent to qualify for the semi-finals was Vietnam, and the encounter this Friday, December 6 at the Mall of Asia Arena played almost similarly.
But that was never in doubt when the Gilas squad, again, contains some of the cream of the crop of the PBA in it, and under the coaching leadership of the legendary Tim Cone to boot. June Mar Fajardo, five-time PBA MVP, served as the tip of the spear for the Philippines’ scoring machine with 23 points, plus 12 rebounds to keep the Vietnamese off, despite their having two Vietnamese-American players and having won its previous two games. Perhaps the extra game played compared to one less for Gilas factored into the eventual result, 110-69 for the giddy host team.
Bolstering Fajardo’s point contribution for the win were 14 points apiece from L.A. Tenorio and Vic Manuel, while Troy Rosario gave 12 of his own. Vietnam’s ace Chris Dierker outscored everyone else in the game individually with 28 points for his squad, not that it did them any good. The only heated contest was in the first half, but by Q3 Gilas pulled away from the opposition to a record 41-point lead that ensured victory. Now, the Philippine team faces Myanmar in the semis this Saturday, December 7, to close out the 5×5 basketball preliminaries.
Already, the host country has dominated the 3×3 basketball contest, a newly-debuting SEA Games event played from December 1 to 2, with gold medals won by teams of both genders.
Image from The Philippine Star