Gilas Pilipinas Beat Thailand to Win 2019 Southeast Asian Games Basketball Gold

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistDecember 10, 2019

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - DECEMBER 07: Vic Manuel #4 of the Philippines battles for the ball against Chin Ta #4 of Myanmar during the 5x5 Men's Basketball at the Mall of Asia Arena during day 7 of the Southeast Asian Games on December 07, 2019 in Manila, Philippines. (Photo by Annice Lyn/Getty Images)
Annice Lyn/Getty Images

Gilas Pilipinas beat Thailand 115-81 to claim Southeast Asian Games basketball gold Tuesday.

Thailand kept the hosts within single digits in the first half, but Gilas switched gears in the third quarter, outscoring their opponents by 25 points. They cruised to their 13th consecutive title from that point.

Both teams entered the final unbeaten after dominant runs through the group stages. Thailand edged Vietnam in the semi-finals, while Gilas crushed Indonesia.

Before the final, the Gilas players watched the women's team set the example by beating their Thai opponents:

ESPN5 @Sports5PH

Gilas Pilipinas is out here watching the women’s team.🇵🇭 #SamaSamaSaSEAGames #SEAGames2019 #WeWinAsOne https://t.co/LKaJLgpUwG

The hosts dominated every team they faced leading up to the final with a combination of outside shooting and strong play in the post, but Thailand proved tougher than any previous opponent.

After a poor start that saw Gilas open up a nine-point lead, the Thailand defence toughened up. They also copied Gilas' tactic of getting inside early and often, resulting in a first-half edge in free throws.

Gilas still found plenty of success near the hoop:

ESPN5 @Sports5PH

.@Vicmanuel_4 muscles his way inside! #SamaSamaSaSEAGames #SEAGames2019 #WeWinAsOne https://t.co/lid0053sGZ

But the three-point shot didn't work as well as it did during the group stage, and Gilas only maintained their advantage thanks to bench production and great work on the boards.

Vic Manuel stood out with his energy on the interior, but after a strong run in the middle of the second quarter, Thailand again reduced the deficit in the final minutes.

The underdogs only scored one fewer point in the second quarter, and the half-time stats showed just how much better their starters performed up to that point:

ESPN5 @Sports5PH

Check out the match statistics for Gilas Pilipinas vs Thailand! 📺 @TV5manila 💻 https://t.co/uDWQDSvftp #SamaSamaSaSEAGames #WeWinAsOne #SEAGames2019 https://t.co/S0Ah1XzR0H

Gilas' depth has been a major weapon throughout the tournament, however, and it once again showed in the third quarter. Thailand's starting five grew tired, and the hosts took over, finding more success with the long ball:

ESPN5 @Sports5PH

.@cmross6 is wide open for the three...BANG! #SamaSamaSaSEAGames #SEAGames2019 #WeWinAsOne https://t.co/rZ9rjH5HZ1

In addition, June Mar Fajardo started to bully the defenders on the interior, and before long, Gilas pushed the lead past 20 points.

The long ball proved key in the third quarter, stretching a tired Thai defence that could barely get a rebound any longer. By the end of the quarter, the gap was 33 points, and the game was as good as over.

Gilas' backups saw more playing time in the final quarter, but the result was never in doubt. 

The Philippines have won every men's basketball tournament at the Southeast Asian Games since 1989, when Malaysia claimed their second title.