The Gilas Pilipinas men's and women's 3x3 teams got off to a rousing start in the 30th Southeast Asian Games as they swept the first day of the preliminary round Sunday at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan.
The men's team came away with an immaculate 4-0 record to gain an early semifinals berth while the women's squad were also undefeated in their division with a 3-0 slate.
The four-man contingent of Jason Perkins, Chris Newsome, CJ Perez, and Moala Tautuaa were tested early as they had to endure a hard-fought 21-17 victory over Indonesia. Jason Perkins led the way with nine points, three coming in the final three minutes to help the Philippines pull away. CJ Perez, who was right behind in scoring with eight, delivered the winning basket with 1:59 left on the clock.
The Philippines had an easier time in their second game as they walloped Myanmar, 21-10. Perkins had another solid output, pouring in 10 points in the lopsided contest. They followed up their dominating performance with a 21-15 win over Vietnam in their next game as the duo of Perkins and Perez put up eight points apiece.
Gilas completed a sweep of the first day of competition with a convincing 21-10 rout over Thailand. Perkins ended up as the team's leading scorer for the fourth straight time with seven points.
"Going into our preparation for this tournament, the one thing that we're focused on was our defense. That's something that coach Ronnie (Magsanoc) and the coaching staff did really well was to prepare us defensively on how we were gonna guard," Newsome said. "I think that showed throughout today that we were able to get some stops and that's something that we need to take with us to tomorrow into the medal round if we're gonna come out with the gold."
The Philippines will close out the preliminary round with matches against Malaysia and Cambodia on Monday before entering the semifinals in the afternoon. Despite the undefeated record, however, Newsome and company have no plans of letting their guard down.
"With a 4-0 start, it definitely improves our chances but by no means finished with our work," Newsome said. "We're not finished until the last game is done. I think right now what we can do is go home and rest. Now is not the time to celebrate, but to focus even more on what we have to do to reach that goal."
In the women's division, the quartet of Jack Animam, Clare Castro, Janine Pontejos, and Afril Bernardino ran the competition with three wins. With their perfect slate, the Philippines just needs to get one more win in the preliminary round to clinch a semifinals slot.
"Of course we're happy that we won all our games today," said Animam, who came from an eye injury in her last international stint but bared that she was back at a hundred percent. "All the work and sacrifices every day our slowly bearing fruit. Hopefully tomorrow we can finish well."
The women's team started their campaign with a 21-4 domination over Myanmar as they leaned on their height to overpower their smaller opponents. Castro, the 6-foot-4 center out of FEU, muscled her way to eight points to lead Gilas. Pontejos was on fire from beyond the arc, hitting three 2-pointers, including the game-winner from the corner.
The Philippines then survived a late rally from Malaysia to come up with a 15-13 decision. Malaysia scored three quick points in the final minute to cut a 15-10 Gilas lead before coming up short as time expired. Pontejos once again led the scoring with five points followed by four points each from Bernardino and Animam.
In their final game, clutch baskets from Bernardino, Pontejos, and Animam in the final minute gave Gilas enough cushion to move past Indonesia, 16-13. Pontejos continued her hot shooting as she nabbed seven points in the win.
"It's a new day tomorrow so we need to continue our momentum. We need to win until we finish this 3x3 [tournament] and we get the gold," said Pontejos.
Gilas Pilipinas Women will face off against Vietnam and Thailand tomorrow to finish off the preliminary round.
"I claim it. We're gonna be number one and get the gold medal," Animam confidently said. "We hope everyone keeps on supporting us and keeps praying for us so we can really get the gold."