SINGAPORE - Kiefer Ravena hit a big three-pointer late as the Philippines survived a scare from Thailand, 80-75, and reached the men's basketball finals of the 28th Southeast Asian Games.
The Gilas cadets were made to sweat by a rugged Thailand side that took a 10-point lead at halftime and was only within a point, 76-75, in a game that had a predominantly pro-Filipino crowd on the edge of their seats.
Former La Salle guard Almond Vosotros and Troy Rosario led Gilas back into the game in the second half before Ravena hit the three-pointer with 16.2 seconds left that averted what could've been a monumental letdown for the Filipinos.
“We had difficulties against their zone defense. It was our first time to see their zone and it gave us problems,” national coach Tab Baldwin said, heaving a sigh of relief.
“So we had to make some adjustments in the second half and Almond Vosotros started to hit big shots while Kiefer (Ravena) was able to penetrate,” Baldwin added.
With the thrilling win, the unbeaten Filipinos moved on to the final against either Singapore or Indonesia to be played at the OCBC Arena on Monday night.
The Philippines has won the men's basketball gold in every SEA Games edition since 1991, but it looked in danger of losing a game for the first time since 1997 when it trailed 33-43 at halftime.
Rosario and Vosotros led the team back in the second half.
Rosario, a projected top three pick in the coming PBA rookie draft, scored 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as he atoned for a poor game from Marcus Douthit who finished with four points.
On the other hand, Vosotros hit six three-pointers for the Gilas cadets to finish with 18. The last of those treys gave the Philippines back the lead after a long chase, 62-59.
Thailand, made up mostly of Asean Basketball League (ABL) veterans, tied the score again at 73-all before Rosario hit a follow-up and a free throw to give the Philippines a little breathing room.
Following two free throws by Muangboon Nattakam that cut the lead to one with 35.9 seconds left, Ravena got the ball in an isolation play and pulled up for a three-pointer with a defender on him.
Philippines (80) - Rosario 27, Vosotros 18, Ravena 12, Ferrer 7, Khobuntin 5, Douthit 4, Belo 4, Amer 3, Thompson 0, Torres 0, Jalalon 0
Thailand (75) - Muangboon 15, Kruatiwa 15, Dason 12, Apiromvlaichai Darongpan 11, Ghogar 9, Samerjai 7, Chanthachon 4, Kongkum 2, Klahan 0, Lertmalaiporn 0
Quarterscores: 14-22; 33-43; 59-56; 80-75