Gilas Pilipinas completed its redemption drive and reclaimed lost glory after a masterful 80-69 beating of host Cambodia in the gold-medal match of the 32nd Southeast Asian Games 5×5 Men’s basketball competition, Tuesday at the Elephant Hall 2 of the Morodok Techno National Stadium in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Justin Brownlee and CJ Perez drained back-to-back clutch triples which crushed Cambodia’s last-ditch attempt to turn the game around and the Filipinos’ cruised to an 11-point win and the gold medal before a jampacked venue which included Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen.
The victory marked the return of the Men’s basketball crown to where it usually belongs in the region until Indonesia took a brief reign after ending the Philippine’s 31-year dominance during last year’s staging of the SEA Games in Hanoi.
The country has now won 19 gold medals in Men’s 5×5 basketball, one of the most dominant runs in the biennial tournament in any discipline.
Justin Brownlee delivered the goods once more by scoring a game-high 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting including 3-of-7 from beyond the arc. Brgy. Ginebra’s resident import in the PBA also tallied 7 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and a block in 35 minutes of action.
“We did it. We did it,” said Gilas coach Chot Reyes to a group of Filipino reporters shortly after the match.
“I don’t know if there’s anything else left to say. I know a lot of people doubted this team after the first time that we lost. But I didn’t tell you the first words in the dugout after we lost. I said, ‘This was the loss that we could afford.’ And I thought we needed that loss actually,” he added.
The host nation was held to their lowest output in the tournament and could only manage 47 points in the last three periods. They shot 4-of-19 (21%) from the three-point area, down from their 33% clip (12-of-36) during their win over Gilas in the preliminaries.
“We just kept our focus,” said Reyes. “The players did a hell of a job, they stuck together. They kept this team of five imports, six imports to below 70 points. That was great defense. In the end, it was our defense that got us through to this gold medal.”
Chris Newsome added 16 points while Marcio Lassiter, who was celebrating his 36th birthday, came through with 10 to go with 5 boards, 1 assist and 2 steals. Christian Standhardinger, CJ Perez and Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser chipped in 9 markers apiece.