KUALA LUMPUR: The Philippines will formalize its return to the finals when it battles either Singapore or Vietnam in the semifinals of the 29th Southeast Asian Games men’s basketball competition today at the MABA Stadium at the heart of this Malaysian capital.
Action starts at 5 pm while the Philippine women’s side will clash with Vietnam at 10:15 am to salvage at least a silver medal following a sorry 56-60 setback to the home team early Thursday.
The Filipina dribblers trailed by as much as 16 points, 27-43, midway through the third period and managed to tie it at 54 off bank shot three-point bomb from Ara Abaca.
But the Filipinas failed to convert and committed two turnovers while the Eugene Ting scored an undergoal stab in the final 50 seconds to push the Malaysians ahead, 57-54.
Pang Hui Pin canned one of his to free throws before Saw Wei Yin completed her charity to seal the victory for the home squad, 60-56.
Allana Lim spearheaded Perlas Pilipinas with 17 points, six rebounds and two assists while Analyn Almazan chipped in 11 markers and five rebounds for the Filipinos, who finished the group stage with 3-2 win-loss card.
The Filipinas now have to hope that Indonesia will lose to Thailand and Singapore to somehow have a fighting chance for the silver medal.
But all eyes will be on the men’s battle.
After crushing the Malaysians late Wednesday, 98-66, to secure their third straight victory, the Filipinos topped Group A and will face either Vietnam or Singapore in the crossover semifinals.
The Singaporeans and the Vietnamese are locked at the second spot with an identical 2-1 record and whoever emerge victorious in their encounter would gain the right to face the Filipinos in the sudden-death semifinals.
Singapore and Vietnam are still playing at press time.
If and when the Filipinos emerge victorious against either Vietnam or Singapore in the semis, they will clash with the winner in the other semifinal pairing between unbeaten Indonesia and Thailand in the finals.
“Things will get more interesting from there,” said Gilas Pilipinas coach Jong Uichico, noting that winning their 11th consecutive men’s basketball crown is no longer as easy as before.
“We have to bring our A-game and set our sights on winning the title.”
Tipped to be at the forefront of the Filipinos’ attack are Ray Parks, Kiefer Ravena, Baser Amer, Kobe Paras and Filipino-German Christian Standhardinger, who delivered 18 points and 18 rebounds despite the rugged defense of the Malaysians in their previous outing.