Gilas Pilipinas Women avoided a collapse before beating Malaysia, 81-75, to move a win away from the gold medal in the 30th Southeast Asian Games, Sunday evening at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
The Filipina dribblers squandered a 12-point third quarter deficit, then saw themselves down six approaching the midway mark of the payoff period. Fortunately, though, they fought back collect their second win in as many games.
“Wow! What a game. We were down by six in the last five minutes. They never gave up. I’m so proud of them, diving for that ball, and talagang they found a way to really win. I’m just happy we survived again,” said coach Pat Aquino.
Afril Bernardino powered Gilas Women with 18 points, 19 rebounds, three assists, three blocks, and a steal.
Forward Jack Aninam had a double-double as well with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Ana Castillo produced 11 points built on three three-pointers, while Janine Pontejos chimed in 10 markers, three boards, and two steals.
Gilas Women appeared to have control of the match when it posted a 59-47 lead in the third canto. Unfortunately, it then failed to protect the advantage, as the Malaysians clawed their way back and took a 74-68 lead with 5:31 remaining in the game.
But the hosts did not allow a meltdown to happen on their home turf. Castillo first nailed back-to-back triples to tie the game at 74-all. Danica Jose then split her foul shots for the one-point lead with 3:01 on the game clock.
Pontejos made up for Animam’s blank trip to the charity stripe by calmly making her own set. She also buried a floater moments later to widen Gilas Women’s advantage to five points, 79-74, with less than a minute to go.
Magdalene Low split her freebies to stop the bleeding for the Malaysians, but that was the last basket they could buy. Bernardino made both of her bonus shots with 27 seconds left to play to seal the much-needed victory.
“Just so happy with the girls, and sobrang proud ako sa kanilang lahat,” expressed Aquino as the Philippines has yet to win a gold medal in the SEA Games’ women’s basketball. ‘These girls really wanted this.”
Fook Yee Yap had 18 points, four rebounds, and three assists to lead the erstwhile-defending champs Malaysia.
Gilas Women will face Thailand on Tuesday, December 11, at 6 p.m. in the virtual gold medal match.
Philippines 81 –– Bernardino 18, Animam 14, Castillo 11, Pontejos 10, Cabinbin 8, Hayes 7, Tongco 5, Jose 3, Nabalan 3, Prado 2, Castro 0, Chan 0.
Malaysia 75 — Yap 18, Saw 11, Low 10, Tan 8, Ting 8, Rajintiran 7, Hiew 7, Tai 4, Chia 2, Lee 0, Ho 0.
Quarterscores: 16-14, 42-38, 64-63, 81-75.