MALACCA, MALAYSIA - The Philippines is once again the top women's basketball team in Southeast Asia.
After a wait of six long years, Perlas Pilipinas finally secured the gold medal in the Seaba Championship for Women following a gripping 77-73 win over host Malaysia on Saturday night at the Bukit Serindit Indoor Stadium.
“This is defining moment for Philippine women’s basketball. I’m happy for the girls. I’m happy for our supporter, Blackwater and I’m happy for the country. We did it,” said Perlas Pilipinas coach Patrick Aquino.
By winning its first five games, Perlas guaranteed itself the championship with a game still left to play against also-ran Thailand on Sunday.
Even if the Philippines loses to Thailand, only Malaysia could catch up with Perlas at 5-1. The Filipinas will still be declared champion in such a scenario by virtue of the winner over the other rule.
Allana Lim led the way for Perlas Pilipinas in the pivotal win over Malaysia with 16 points while two other mainstays, Afril Bernardino and Ambi Almazan finished withdouble-double performances.
Bernardino tallied 14 points and 10 boards while Almazan had 10 points and 12 rebounds for Perlas Pilipinas, which equalled the feat of the 2010 Philippine women's team coached by Heidi Ong.
But the Philippines had to survive a late rally by Malaysia, which held the Filipinas without a field goal in the last three and a half minutes.
The Philippines saw its 15-point lead in the final three and a half minutes nearly evaporate as Malaysia unloaded an 11-0 run.
Malaysia was in the thick of the fight at 77-73 in the closing seconds and got a big break when Raiza Dy missed from point blank range. But the Malaysians turned the ball over, allowing the Filipinas to secure the win.