The Gilas Pilipinas men's 3x3 team swept the Southeast Asian Games tournament and captured the gold medal Monday at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
CJ Perez was a man on a mission as he scored 10 points to lead the Philippines past Indonesia, 21-9, in the final game. Mo Tautuaa delivered the game-winning 2-pointer with 2:25 left remaining.
The four-man team of Perez, Tautuaa, Chris Newsome, and Jason Perkins ran amok in the tournament with a pristine 8-0 record.
"I'm really happy because this is the first 3x3 [tournament] and our first gold," Perez said in Filipino. "It's an honor to represent the country in our home court. It's really fun."
Indonesia was also the Philippines' first assignment last Sunday as Gilas scraped by with a 21-17 win. The finals proved to be a different story as Gilas was able to dominate their opponent from start to finish. Perez led the fight and had his signature moment when he threw down a vicious one-handed dunk early in the contest. The Philippines put their stamp in the game, leading by as many as 10 points, 16-6, never losing control of the momentum.
The quartet composed of PBA players showed familiarity and chemistry despite playing 3x3 basketball for the first time.
"You could say that it was perfect timing that they all came together," said national team head coach Ronnie Magasanoc as his 12-man pool dwindled in the last few weeks. "There was nobody else, just these four in the final week. Maybe everything happened for a reason, probably fate, but they made it happen."
After racking up four wins in the first day of competition, Gilas went on to finish the preliminary round with a perfect 6-0 record after wins over Malaysia (21-13) and Cambodia (21-6). The Philippines continued to stretch its dominance in the semifinals round, ousting Thailand, 21-11. Perkins, who took on the scoring load for most of Gilas' games, credited his teammates for his efficient offense.
"I think it's because of my other teammates," Perkins said. "The biggest guy will be on Mo and the smallest guy will be on [CJ or Chris]. The mismatch will have to end up on me. That's basically because of who we have and also coach created a great gameplan. When you're playing with these guys, they make it easier for you."
After serving as pioneers as the first Southeast Asian Games gold medalists in 3x3 competition, Magsanoc hopes the sport will continue to gain a following.
"I think hand-in-hand with the qualifiers for the Olympics next year, hopefully, this can continue to jump-start the sport here in the Philippines. Because in other countries this is already a huge sport. For them this isn't new, and for us it's new.
"Hopefully in a way we can contribute to attracting more players to get into the sport. Hopefully have icons to represent the country time and again, not just here. And I wish the same for the women's team. Hopefully and eventually, the Philippines will be a major player in the global stage not just in Asia."
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio lauded the team for their efforts.
"The victory of Gilas Pilipinas Men 3x3 not only stamps our class as still the kings of basketball in the region but also shows that we're moving in the right direction in tha half-court game, said Panlilio in a statement. "The SBP congratulates Chris Newsome, Jason Perkins, CJ Perez, and Moala Tautuaa for winning the gold and thanks them for their sacrifices in the preparation for the SEA Games."
"This dominant run would not have been possible without the leadership of PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial and the help of the PBA Board of Governors. They opened their rosters to give coach Ronnie Magsanoc the free hand to form the strongest unit possible and we saw the results," he added. "Their success only strengthens the point that great synergy between the SBP and PBA is beneficial for everyone involved and, more importantly, the best course of action for Philippine basketball as a whole.