Basketball gold lifts Philippines fading hopes

Gerry Carpio - The Philippine Star
Basketball gold lifts Philippines fading hopes

The title defense came with little difficulty for a Gilas Pilipinas cadet squad assembled late for the SEA Games and given only the Jones Cup as its warmup tournament a month ago. File

KUALA LUMPUR – The Philippines took the fight out of an Indonesian five right from the start and retained the basketball crown, 94-55, the gold that mattered most for Filipinos struggling to make the Big 5 among 11 nations going into the final four days of the 29th Southeast Asian Games.

The title defense came with little difficulty for a Gilas Pilipinas cadet squad assembled late for the SEA Games and given only the Jones Cup as its warmup tournament a month ago.

But coach Jong Uichico didn’t leave anything to chance, using its edge in height to the hilt until the outcome was beyond doubt to retain the crown it last gave up  in 1989.

When the shouting died down at the MABA stadium and in other venues of the metropolis, the Philippines had three golds, counting two from the poomsae team in taekwondo and the win of judoka Miyoki Watanabe. 

The two-time poomsae champion team annexed its third straight crown while Watanabe, training her sights beyond the SEA Games, gained her third straight crown in performances that gave Team Philippines some boost in its faltering bid in the dying hours.

The three golds were all Team Philippines could muster as the third gold medal hopeful, Fil-American James Deiparine who topped the 50m breaststroke event in 28.20 seconds in the morning heats, clocked only 28.60 for the bronze behind defending champion Indra Gunawan of Indonesia in 28.25.

The modest gains stranded the Philippines, aiming for a top 5 overall finish, at sixth place going into the last four days of the biennial meet. As of 10:30 p.m. last night, the Philippines had a gold-silver-bronze medal tally of 18-24-45, not counting the gold-silver in the 9-ball women’s singles. The Philippines trailed Indonesia (31-43-52), Thailand (44-64-63), Singapore (46-35-52), Vietnam (49-34-43) and frontrunning Malaysia (82-58-53).

 There was at least a glimmer of hope for one more gold today in billiards and one or two through Filipino defending champions Kirstie Elaine Alora, Pauline Lopez and Samuel Morrison in taekwondo’s final events.  

By nightfall, world champions Chezka Centeno and Rubilen Amit threw out their Malaysian rivals in the semis to advance to an all-Filipino gold medal duel this evening at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center.

Carlo Biado and Juhann Chua are also set to fight their Vietnamese rivals in the semis this morning, vowing to secure the other all-Filipino duel for the men’s singles gold in the evening.

Brothers Dustin Jacob and Raphael Enrico Mella, who first won the gold in 2013 and in 2015, and this year in partnership with Rodolfo Reyes, scored an average of 3.40 in accuracy and 4.97 in presentation for a total of 8.37 in the men’s team poomsae to give the taekwondo team its first gold following the bronze medal win of the women’s team.

Reyes won the Philippines’ bronze in the men’s individual poomsae earlier.

The women’s team of Rinna Bananto, Juvenile Faye Crisostomo and Jocel Lyn Ninobla scored 8.27 for the bronze in the women’s event. 

Watanabe immediately threw her opponent to the ground, then pinned her down for 36 seconds to win the gold in the -63 kg class in women’s judo.

The win gave judo its first gold and one of many other international medals for the Filipino Olympian who is already being included by the Philippine Sports Commission in its program for the 2020 Olympics following her impressive bronze medal finish in the tough Tokyo International Judo Championships last July. 

Right after receiving the gold medal in the awarding ceremonies, she left the stadium and Malaysia to catch the first flight to the World Championships in Budapest.

Three silver and eight bronze medals were the other mints in the day following second place finishes by Anna Clarice Patrimonio in the women’s singles in tennis, the pair of Marcelito Pancho and Angelo Morales in men’s pair event in lawn bowls and the team of Sophia Joker Arroyo, Marie Antonette Leviste and Syquia Collins in the showjumping event of equestrian.

Asian Games champion Daniel Caluag, lacking the training and preparation that earned him the gold in the quadrennial meet in 2014, settled for the bronze in BMX cycling. Athletics’ last bronze medals came from Kingsley Bautista in the 110 meter hurdles and the 4x400m relay. The fourth bronze came from Mark Griffin in waterski.

Jasmine Alkhaldi earned her fourth bronze medal, finishing with a time of 2:02:02 in the 200m freestyle.

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