Don’t count out Indonesia

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - May 5, 2021 - 12:00am

In the basketball history of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, Indonesia has never defeated the Philippines. Over the last 11 games between the two countries in the SEA Games since 1995, the Philippines crushed Indonesia by an average winning margin of 23.5 points. In the 2019 edition, the score was 97-70 and in 2017, it was 94-55. In 2015, the Philippines did it twice, 81-52 in the group stage and 72-64 in the final.

The closest Indonesia came to upsetting the Philippines was at the 1993 SEA Games in Singapore where coach Tembong Melencio’s squad battled back from a 13-point deficit to win, 77-75, in OT. Melencio’s players included Poch Juinio, Siot Tanquingcen, Rodney Santos, Onchie de la Cruz and Harmon Codiñera. The other close call was in 2003 when the Philippines won, 75-70. Indonesia, however, drubbed the Philippines, 88-81, in the final of the 1996 SEABA Championships.

On June 19, Indonesia will face the Philippines in the FIBA Asia Cup third qualifying window at the Clark bubble with ex-PBA import Lester Prosper leading the charge as a naturalized player. Prosper isn’t making any predictions but promises to unveil “a different me” in battling the hometown team. It’ll be a challenge for the young Gilas squad to thwart an older, more experienced Indonesian crew coached by Serbian Rajko Toroman.

The first-ever Indonesia win over the Philippines came during the Pan-Continental Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Yokohama on Sept. 25-Oct. 3, 1964. There were 10 teams in the competition and the top four made it to the Tokyo Olympics where basketball was played on Oct. 11-23 that same year with 16 countries.

The Philippine team was made up of Ed Ocampo, Manny Jocson, Boy Arazas, Boy Marquez, Ciso Bernardo, Eddie Pacheco, Felix Flores, Sonny Reyes, Elias Tolentino, Turo Valenzona, Big Boy Reynoso and Ed Roque with Tito Eduque as coach. Wikipedia claimed that the Philippines finished with a 4-5 record but in a record book published by FIBA in 2002, it was corrected to 3-6. The Philippines got off on the wrong foot and lost to Mexico, 90-85, then won two in a row, 85-55 over Malaysia and 95-71 over Taiwan. Next came the nightmarish 98-86 loss to Indonesia. The Philippines went on a tailspin, bowing to Cuba, 84-69 and Australia, 71-69 before bouncing back to trounce Thailand, 98-71. Two more setbacks to Canada, 68-64 and Korea, 90-58, brought the curtains down on the Philippines which wound up sixth. Mexico, Australia, Canada and Korea advanced to Tokyo.

Valenzona said the team was made up of six YCO and six Ysmael Steel players. YCO team owner Don Manolo Elizalde and Ysmael Steel team owner Felipe Ysmael made the trip to Yokohama. “Kayang kaya namin ang Indonesia,” recalled Valenzona. “Nag tune-up game ang Indonesia sa atin at tinalo sila ng Murcia selection. Pero ‘di maganda ang laro namin, petiks petiks. Medyo nagtampo mga players kay coach Tito kasi sobrang higpit sa discipline at kailangan naka shoes at jacket kaming lahat pagkumain, even sa breakfast. Yung shooter ng Indonesia (Siong Liem Siem), halos napabayaan. Kumayod kami bandang dulo pero too late na.” Indonesia led, 48-35, at halftime and Siem ended up with 24 points. Indonesia shot 29-of-46 free throws compared to the Philippines’ 14-of-16. Arazas led the Philippines with 21 points.

Siem emerged as the tournament’s leading scorer with a 29.7 average and fired 59 in a 99-96 OT loss to Cuba. Bernardo averaged 12.8 points for the Philippines and Arazas, 10.8, Reynoso, 10.3 and Reyes and Roque, 9.7 each. In the Olympic proper, the US captured the gold medal with future NBA players Bill Bradley, Jeff Mullins, Walt Hazzard and Mel Counts.

The takeaways from the Philippines’ defeat to Indonesia include never underestimate any team, stay focused, don’t be distracted by things not under your control, keep connected with your coach no matter what, sort out personal issues off the court, work as a unit, don’t foul in exasperation and play hard on both ends from start to finish.

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