By Riera U. Mallari
PHNOM PENH—Gilas Pilipinas checked the first of two targets in its Southeast Asian Games’ bucket list when it avenged its last year’s setback to Indonesia via a semifinal 84-76 victory in the basketball competitions at the Elephant Hall 2 of the Morodok Techno National Stadium here on Monday.
On Tuesday at 3 p.m. (4 p.m. in Manila), the Filipinos will try to achieve their second goal – regain the basketball throne.
But it won’t be easy against a souped-up Cambodian team of five naturalized American players, who handed the Filipinos a bitter 79-68 spanking in the elims.
There is, however, renewed optimism this time as the Philippines’ own naturalized player in Justin Brownlee looks to have finally adapted to the scorching heat and the linoleum flooring of the hardcourt.
Proof was his 15-point eruption in the fourth quarter against the Indonesians, including back-to back-to-back treys as Gilas, playing catch up most of the way, grabbed the lead at 76-74, and gained control the rest of the game.
The Philippines’ participation in the games was supported by the Philippine Sports Commission.
Gilas’ win also officially booted from their throne the Indonesians, who handed the Filipinos a stunning 81-85 crushing, last year in Vietnam to win their first basketball gold in the games. With Monday’s loss, they became the games’ shortest-lived cage champs at one year.
Meanwhile, the Cambodians, who haven’t medalled in the history of SEAG basketball, are already assured of their best finish after crushing Thailand, 76-66, in the other semifinal pairing.