Gilas Pilipinas Women took down two-time defending champion Malaysia, 81-75, to move one win away from the 30th Southeast Games women's basketball title on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Afril Bernardino had an impressive performance for the Philippines, finishing with a double-double of 18 points and 19 rebounds, while Jack Animam added 14 markers and 11 boards.
Gilas Women was able to go up by a dozen in the third frame, but allowed the Malaysians to crawl back in the game and grab the lead.
But the Filipinas showed they wanted it more -- diving for loose balls, forcing turnovers, and playing intense defense. When Malaysia went up 74-68 midway through the fourth period, the Philippines went on a 9-0 blitz -- including two 3-pointers from Ana Castillo -- to take a three-point edge with 1:33 to go.
After forcing the Malaysians to a turnover in the ensuing play, Janine Pontejos scored on a floater in the lane to extend the lead to five with 51 seconds left, which was enough cushion for the Philippines to seal the win.
"Wow, what a game. We were down by six or seven in the last five minutes or so, but they never gave up. I was so proud of them, they found a way to win that game," said head coach Pat Aquino.
Next up for Gilas Women, who are already assured of a silver, is Thailand, which is also undefeated with a 2-0 record. Whichever team wins that game takes home the gold medal.
"It doesn't end here. We still have one more game and hopefully our momentum continues," said Aquino. "This is what we've worked hard far, let's not put it to waste. We will be preparing well, [because] Thailand is a tough team to crack."
"We need to play good defense and talk more on that end, and hopefully we execute our plays," said Bernardino.
- Malaysia has won the gold medal in 13 of the 18 times the women's basketball competition was staged in the SEA Games. Philippines, on the other hand, has never won the gold and has only managed six silver medals since 1977.
- Malaysia is now 0-2 in the tournament. In their opener they suffered an embarrassing 74-40 loss to Thailand.
- Gilas Women forced the Malaysian team to 19 turnovers, which they converted to 20 points on the other end.
Gilas Women vs. Thailand on Tuesday at 6 p.m.