The Philippine men and women’s basketball teams went to Myanmar last Wednesday with only one target, and that is to deliver a golden double victory in the 27th Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar.
Although the defending champion men’s basketball team is the favorite to win the gold, the women’s basketball team almost did not make it to this year’s SEA Games because of their lackluster performance at the 25th FIBA Asia Championship for Women in Bangkok last October.
The players of both team though assured everybody at the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum in Shakey’s Malate that they will be doing their best to give honor to the country.
“We’re expecting no less than a gold medal since we’ve been dominating the SEA Games eversince,” said men’s team captain Kevin Alas.
To which women’s co-team captain Joana Grajales quipped, “This is different. This is a fight for the gold.”
Basketball is among the sports that will be played before the SEA Games opening in December 11.
The Perlas ng Pilipinas squad of coach Haydee Ong first kicks off Philippines’ campaign in basketball against Malaysia on December 9, then again Thailand the following day.
The Filipina cagebelles will then have a four-day rest, before plunging back into action on Dec. 15 against Indonesia, before capping their campaign against the host country on the 16th.
The Sinag Pilipinas team of coach Jong Uichico opens its title defense against Singapore also on December 9, and will then play against Cambodia on the 10th, before taking a rest on the 11th.
The men’s team resumes their campaign against Myanmar on Dec. 12, followed by Thailand (13th), Indonesia (14th), and Malaysia (15th).
The national team assistant coach considers Thailand, Indonesia, and last-minute entry Singapore as biggest threats to the Filipinos’ bid for the gold, especially the Singaporeans, whom he claims will be bannered by big man Russel Low, a veteran of the Asian Youth Games in 2010.
Ong meanwhile, is unfazed by the prospect of playing Malaysia right on the team’s opening game. The Malaysians beat the Filipina cagebelles in the last Fiba-Asia For Women’s in Bangkok.
“The team is prepared against our first game. We already made adjustments on our offense and in transition,” she said. “Yung apat na makakalaban naman natin lahat kasali sa Fiba-Asia, ang hindi pa lang naman namin nakakalaban is ’yung Myanmar.”
Both men’s and women’s basketball will be played in a single-round robin format, with the team with the best record winning the gold medal.