Sibol, the national esports team powered by Smart, won the Philippines' second esports gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games after beating Thailand, 3-2, in the Dota 2 discipline on Monday at the San Juan Arena.
This comes a day after the Sibol Mobile Legends: Bang Bang squad captured gold over Indonesia.
Riding on the momentum from a dominant performance in the group stage, Sibol Dota 2 swept Vietnam in the upper bracket finals to gain a spot in the grand finals.
The Thais, on the other hand, showed their strength in Group A, but failed to take down Vietnam in their tiebreaker match, relegating them to the lower bracket where they swept Laos. In the lower bracket finals, Vietnam and Thailand faced off anew, but the latter came out with the win to set up a duel with Sibol in the gold medal match.
Sibol drew first blood in the series after their comfort picks, Elder Titan and Drow Ranger, got through the draft. Thailand took an early lead, but Sibol regained momentum in the mid-game.
The second game began with Thailand gaining a lead and gaining with a bigger lead. With the series tied, Sibol decided to bring out the Outworld Devourer in Game 3 which proved vital in tearing Thailand apart.
Thailand, once again, evened out the series in Game 4 with a sturdy composition with Anti-Mage leading the charge. Sibol did their best to fight back, but ultimately was forced to call 'GG'.
"I was afraid that the team were going to feel dejected after the loss in Game 4 but surprisingly when I got on stage, they knew. They knew what I saw our mistake which was the switch between Viper and Morphling. From there we cleared our heads. We just thought there's no medal, there's no series, it's just one best-of-one in front of us. Once we knew we were on the same page, it was easy to reset our mindset," said Sibol - Dota 2 coach Paolo Bago on the mood of the team following the devastating Game 4 loss.
Sibol changed their strategies in the fifth and final game. They were banking on surviving the early and mid-game and closing it out in the late game. However, Thailand decided to go for a tri-lane in the bottom lane which caused troubles early on. The Thai lead kept piling up as the game went on with the Filipinos unable to answer.
One crucial fight in Roshan pit was all it took for the tides to turn. John Anthony Vargas found some of the vital targets which allowed Sibol to get the lead and put pressure on their opponents. Unable to contain the well-fed Phantom Lancer, Thailand was forced to watch their base fall into rubble as well as the gold medal turn into silver for themselves.
"We were very excited with the victory and the gold medal. We didn't expect it go this way but we're very happy with the win. There was a lot of twist and turns but we couldn't be any prouder," said Bago.