MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED)—The Philippines remains the gold standard in Southeast Asian basketball.
Gilas Pilipinas left no doubt about that when it overpowered Thailand 115-81 to win the men's basketball gold medal in the 30th Southeast Asian Games at Mall of Asia Arena on Tuesday night.
Cheered on by a 12,000-strong crowd of flag-waving, "Manila"-singing fans, Gilas bucked a tight first half to break the game open in the third quarter and cruise to victory.
This is the Philippines' 18th gold medal in men's basketball, and it capped a terrific tournament that saw the all-pro side showcase the country's dominance in its favorite sport. The Filipinos won their group round games by an average of 54 points, and crushed Indonesia in the semifinal game, 97-70.
"Hindi ganoon kadali ang pinagdaanan namin, 'yung sakripisyo namin. Nagsakripisyo kami, at ito ang kinalabasan," said Gilas center June Mar Fajardo.
Added Gilas coach Tim Cone: "The guys were great. They're veterans, they know the game. It's just a real honor to be around these guys. It was amazing to see their devotion to the game, and their devotion to flag and country."
For a while, it looked as though Thailand would challenge Cone and his team, but a 40-point third quarter erased the visitors' hopes.
Thailand kept it close in the first half, thanks in large part to Tyler Lamb who scored 18 points and hit a triple 13 seconds left in the second quarter that made it a 7-point game, 46-39. Stanley Pringle did him better, however, beating the buzzer for a layup that sent the Philippines to the break with a 48-39 advantage.
It was in the third quarter that the Philippines finally pulled away. The team opened the period with 10 straight points to establish a comfortable 58-39 lead, and poured it on from there. Chris Ross nailed two 3-pointers, Pringle burned all of his defenders for unstoppable drives to the hoop, and Fajardo continued to have his way inside the paint.
Ross set up 3-pointers for Marcio Lassiter and Matthew Wright, and found Troy Rosario and Japeth Aguilar inside the shaded area for easy layups. By the end of the quarter, they seized an unassailable 88-54 advantage.
Gilas' lead reached 39 points, 104-65, off a Vic Manuel layup with under five minutes to go.
"Special 'to kasi first gold ko 'to. Alam ko maraming mga Pilipino ang napasaya namin ngayong gabi," said Fajardo.
Seven Gilas players reached double digits, with Fajardo putting up 17 points and 13 rebounds, and Christian Standhardinger tallying 16 points and 11 boards. LA Tenorio had 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting, and Ross finished with 8 points and a team-high 8 assists.
Lamb finished with 33 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists to lead Thailand.
PHILIPPINES 115 -- Fajardo 17, Tenorio 16, Standhardinger 16, Wright 14, Manuel 14, Pringle 13, Ravena 10, Ross 8, Lassiter 3, Aguilar 2, Rosario 2, Slaughter 0.
THAILAND 81 -- Lamb 33, Jakrawan 15, Suttisin 7, Leelapipatikul 7, Chanthacon 6, Jaisanuk 6, Muangboon 3, Chungyampin 2, Klahan 1, Langsui 1, Ananti 0, Apiromvilaichai 0.
Quarters: 25-17, 48-39, 88-54, 115-81.
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