PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA – Playing without injured forward Calvin Oftana and showing up with an exhausted naturalized player in Justin Brownlee, Gilas Pilipinas was definitely handicapped facing a revamped Cambodian team reinforced by American players.
As a result, the host team was able to pull off a win against the Philippine quintet, 79-68, in the men’s basketball competition of the Southeast Asian Games Thursday night at the Elephant Hall 2 of Morodok Techo National Stadium.
Oftana suffered a Grade 2 calf strain he was able to get during Gilas’ opening day game against Malaysia on Tuesday and was unable to play against Cambodia.
Brownlee, on the other hand, was visibly affected by the heat and had to be taken in and out of the game as fatigue zapped the energy out of him. He couldn’t finish the game and had to be attended by the conditioning and medical team on the bench.
Well-loved by fans, Brownlee had to beg off taking pictures and accommodating the Filipino fans who trooped to the gymnasium to support the Gilas team. The Barangay Ginebra import had to be taken straight to the hotel to rest as he was already experiencing cramps with so many fluids taken out of his body.
“Justin couldn’t move. He was really dehydrated,” said Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes. “The heat really got into him. But later on, he was getting better, but then again, he was cramping up already. He just lost so much fluid.”
While the Filipinos were decimated by injuries, sickness and inability to live up to the uncomfortable playing condition, the Cambodians, featuring their wave of naturalized players, became the biggest scourge of the Gilas side.
Darrin Dorsey, one of Cambodia’s naturalized players, who also led the country to a gold medal finish in the 3×3 men’s basketball competition, paced the host squad with 22 points on top of seven assists and four boards.
Despite playing with a short, seven-man rotation, Cambodia was able to maximize their firepower advantage, mostly anchored on their naturalized players, who were too big, too athletic and deadlier from the perimeter against a Philippine squad which just couldn’t get its game going.
This is the first time that a Philippine squad lost in the early stages of the SEA Games since 1989 when our national team lost to then host Malaysia.
Back then, only five teams were competing in the men’s basketball event and after four games each, the No.1 team emerged as the gold medalist.
Last year, the Philippines lost to Indonesia in the gold medal match as the Filipinos saw their 28-year reign in SEA Games basketball coming to an end.
On the heels of Gilas’ defeat, Manuel V. Pangilinan, the chief benefactor of the Philippine men’s basketball program, couldn’t hide his disappointment and posted it on Twitter.
“What a disgraceful game for Gilas. An ignominious defeat which will be etched deeply in infamy. SBP – what happened?,” posted Pangilinan.