PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Team Philippines delivered a strong finishing kick, plucking six more gold medals from men’s basketball, wrestling, kickboxing and arnis to jack up its harvest in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games at the Morodok Techo National Stadium here.
The celebrated Gilas Pilipinas completed its redemption mission as it beat Cambodia, 80-69, in the gold medal match of the men’s basketball event.
Despite facing all kind of challenges, the Filipino cagers played their hearts out with naturalized player Justin Brownlee sizzling early to dictate the tempo and set the stage for the completion of its hunt for SEA Games redemption.
Brownlee finished with 23 points to lead all scorers for the Filipinos, who slayed the ghost of the “Horror in Hanoi” in which Gilas lost the SEA Games crown to Indonesia after 28 years of dominance.
“I envisioned this, I visualized this, but I didn’t make it happen, it was the players,” Gilas coach Chot Reyes said, flirting at the idea of stepping down as Gilas coach in the biennial meet.
“It was their effort, their willingness to give out everything they got.”
Athletes from other fronts also made their own golden performances as Team Philippines formally surpassed its 52 gold medals in Vietnam.
Already at 51 gold medals entering the final day of competition, wrestler Alvin Lobreguito ended a decade-long search for a gold medal after ruling the men’s freestyle 57-kilogram event.
“We just adjusted our technique and our plans. I’m so happy because I really wanted to get the gold medal,” the 31-year-old Philippine Air Force first-class airman said.
“Just trust the process,” Lobreguito, who debuted in the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar, said.
Two gold medals in arnis were added in Team Philippines coffers courtesy of Trixie Lofranco in the women’s individual Anyo non-traditional and Crisamanuel Delfin in the men’s individual non-traditional open weapon event.
Wrestler Ronil Tubog provided gold No. 55 in the men’s 61-kg freestyle event before Delfin picked another mint in men’s individual Anyo non-traditional open weapon.
In kickboxing, Gretel De Paz overpowered her Indonesian opponent Susanti Ndapataka to reign supreme in the women’s -56-kg low kick at the Elephant Hall 2 of the Morodok Techo National Stadium.
Then, it was Gilas’ turn to beat the host team at the nearby Hall 2, sparking joy and celebration that was witnessed by Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino and chief of mission Chito Loyzaga in the final day of hostilities.
The Games will close with an array of song and dance numbers on Wednesday before the Cambodians formally hand over the hosting chore to Thailand, which will organize the Games in 2025.
Gina Iniong, meanwhile, settled for silver in the women’s kick light -55-kg event after losing to Indonesia’s Diandra Pieter in the final.
The Philippine women’s cricket team came up short in the gold medal match against Thailand.
Lifter John Tabique (men’s 89-kg), the men’s national beach volleyball team of Ranran Abdilla, Jaron Requinton, James Butraygo and Jude Garcia and kickboxer Mikko Caminagawan (men’s -54-kg full contact) chipped in bronze medals.
As of 7:30 p.m., the Philippines had already collected 57 golds, 84 silvers and 111 bronze medals to cement its hold of fifth place, a rung lower than its finish in the Hanoi Games last year.
Kickboxers Claudine Veloso (K1 women’s -52kg) and Jeremy Pacatiw (men’s K1 men’s -51kg) will close the Filipinos’ campaign as they are still vying for gold medals at press time.
Vietnam is poised to replicate its top finish last year with an overall tally of 134-104-110 gold-silver-bronze medal haul.