MANILA, Philippines—Gilas Pilipinas coach Tim Cone ceded the spotlight to the Philippine women's basketball team on Tuesday night at Mall of Asia Arena, calling them the "bigger story" of the 30th Southeast Asian Games.
The Philippine men's team performed as expected, winning the gold medal comfortably after a 5-game sweep of the competition.
The Gilas Pilipinas Women, meanwhile, capped an emotional journey by finally winning their first gold medal in the SEA Games. A 91-71 triumph over Thailand in the final propelled the Filipinas to the top of the podium for the first time, and that for Cone was an even bigger deal than their own triumph.
"I honestly think the bigger story is the women, I really do. I think the bigger story is the women," said Cone.
The Gilas men, he said, were expected to win, but there was not as much attention on the women's team.
"The fact that we (won) is not as big a story as the women stepping up and winning their first gold. I mean, that was amazing," said Cone.
"From where they started in this tournament, nobody was paying attention to them at all. They just started beating one team after the other, after the other, after the other. And starting with the 3-on-3. What a great thing for the women, and for the country."
Kiefer Ravena, who caught a few of the women's games in Kuala Lumpur two years ago, could not be more thrilled for the team.
"Since 2011, kasabay ko na sila," he said, recalling the Filipinas' heartbreaking defeats in previous editions of the SEA Games.
"In 2017, it was one of our biggest chances, but di pa rin napunta sa atin," He said. "It's just the hard of all the girls na part ng programang 'yun, just goes to show the dedication and the program, how it has evolved."
Ravena said that achievement should sign a spotlight on women's basketball now, especially as Filipino fans finally got to see for themselves how talented the Gilas Women are.
"We should appreciate their talents, appreciate what they did, appreciate the gold medal that they worked hard for the country," he said.
LA Tenorio, who like the Gilas Women also won SEA Games gold for the first time, is confident that this is just the beginning for the Pat Aquino-coached team.
"Hopefully, magtuluy-tuloy na, not only in Southeast Asia, but also in Asia and hopefully in world stage. 'Yun naman ang goal natin di ba. Unti-unti 'yan," he said.
"Sana, 'yung program na sinimulan ng women’s basketball ngayon, sana magtuluy-tuloy and suportahan din natin."
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