MANILA, Philippines – History made for Gilas Pilipinas Women.
The Philippines crowned itself as the new queen of 5-on-5 basketball in the region with a breakthrough gold medal in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games following a 91-71 thrashing of Thailand on Tuesday, December 10.
Veterans Jack Animam, Janine Pontejos, and Afril Bernardino all played key roles as the Philippines ended the tournament unbeaten to rule women's basketball for the first time in SEA Games history.
The Philippines finished with a 3-0 record, while Thailand wrapped up its campaign at 2-1 as the team with the best record walked away with the gold.
Animam churned out 21 points and 5 rebounds in what was easily her finest outing in the SEA Games, adding another gold to her personal haul after ruling 3x3 basketball with Pontejos, Bernardino, and Clare Castro.
Bouyed by the sizeable crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena, Gilas Women opened the 3rd quarter with an 18-5 bomb to stymie the pesky Thailand squad that trailed by only one possession at halftime, 43-45.
Animam scattered 8 points in that run, while France Cabinbin scored 5 of her 7 points in that crucial stretch as the Philippines never looked back.
Pontejos set the tone for Gilas Women with 13 of her 16 points coming in the first half, while Bernardino churned out another double-double performance with 10 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks.
Kelly Casey Hayes and Khate Castillo also made their presence felt in the win with 11 points apiece.
The gold medal was a vindication of sorts for women's basketball in the Philippines, which has long been overshawed by men's play.
"I'm just so happy for the girls, for what they achieved. Now, we hope you notice us," said Gilas Women head coach Pat Aquino in a mix of Filipino and English.
He added: "It's been a long time. We've been doing this since 2015 and now the gold is with us. I'm just so happy."
Tiffany Bias, who plays for the New York Liberty in the WNBA, still finished with 15 points, but she was contained in the second half as Thailand settled for another silver-medal finish just like in 2017.
Philippines 91 - Animam 21, Pontejos 16, Hayes 11, Castillo 11, Bernardino 10, Cabinbin 7, Jose 6, Nabalan 5, Prado 2, Castro 2, Tongco 0, Chan 0.
Thailand 71 - Bias 15, Kunchuan 12, Udomsuk 12, Yothanan 10, Kaichaiyapoom 5, Maihom 4, Supyen 3, Buapa 3, Klunbut 2, Phromrat 2, Sangmanee 0.
Quarters: 27-20, 45-43, 68-52, 91-71.