By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
As shocking as it is, the Gilas Pilipinas men’s national basketball team are your silver medalists in this year’s Southeast Asian Games men’s basketball.
Their kryptonite? Their former head coach Rajko Toroman and the emerging Indonesian basketball team.
In an unusual basketball game where Filipinos were used to seeing their men’s basketball team climb up the middle of the podium as champions for 13-straight years, head coach Chot Reyes and Gilas were stunned by Indonesia during the gold medal clash that put an end to their SEA Games domination since 1991.
The Filipino hoopers played catch-up from the get-go and could only watch as the rejuvenated Indonesian team sank their long three-point bombs while playing flawless half-court sets for four quarters.
Marques Bolden, Indonesia’s newly acquired player who once suited for the Cleveland Cavaliers, was unstoppable during the game and gave Gilas a hard time scoring down the paint and was an effective defensive communicator.
Coach Reyes’ dribble drive offense seemed to be off against Indonesia who was quick to switch during baseline coverages and sealed the paint that prevented any easy drop-off passes to June Mar Fajardo down-low.
Gilas had the chance to equalize the ball game at 79 all but an offensive put-back by Bolden extended Indonesia’s lead to five, 81-76.
Willing his team for a comeback, Phoenix Super LPG’s Matthew Wright converted a three-pointer at the top of the key to cut the Indonesian lead to two, 81-79, with 35 seconds left.
However, it was also Wright who missed the game-tying floater with eight seconds left in the game that led to a Kiefer Ravena foul.
Time was not on Gilas’ side anymore with five seconds left and saw their 13-year SEA Games gold medal-winning streak halted.
Aside from a historic undefeated 2022 SEA Games campaign, the win is also Indonesia’s first-ever men’s basketball gold medal.