Philippines survive stern test to earn basketball gold
Favourites surprised by resilient Indonesians
They were the favourites in this competition, but they had to endure yet another stern test to finally claim their gold medal.
After surviving a scare in Sunday's semi-final against Thailand, whom they beat by just five points, the Philippines faced their Group A opponents Indonesia in the final at OCBC Arena yesterday.
Their previous meeting was a stroll in the park for the Filipinos, who won by a convincing 81-52 scoreline.
But there was to be no repeat of that thrashing yesterday, as a completely different Indonesian team showed up on the court.
The Indonesians were a more cohesive unit, blocking the drives of the Filipinos and attacking them on the counter.
But the Philippines defence remained stubborn and resilient, and ultimately the favourites edged home 72-64.
"They prepared very well for us today, and we expected it to be a close game," the Philippines captain Kiefer Ravena told The New Paper yesterday.
Ravena cited the semi-final against Thailand as a huge lesson.
He said: "It was our first close game and that took us by surprise. We wanted to make sure that won't happen again."
The Philippines controlled majority of the game to ensure that their opponents would not get within striking distance, but there were still a few scares in the final quarter as the Indonesians cut the deficit of 12 points to just three at one period.
Only less-than-clinical shooting prevented Indonesia from taking the lead as numerous shots rebounded off the hoop.
The Philippines responded swiftly to restore the comfortable gap and take the win.
Coach Thomas Anthony Baldwin acknowledged that his team made numerous errors that allowed the Indonesians to get into the game.
But he was still full of praise for the fighting spirit of his players, many of whom were much younger than the Indonesians and had been drafted from college teams.
"I'm really proud of them. Indonesia had some really good penetrators - they stopped running offence and all they did was try to isolate and penetrate," he said.
"But we got enough big plays and rebounded the ball well, and that was enough to get us across the finish line."