SEA Games quest for gold ends anew for Perlas after heatbreaking loss in Day 5

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Perlas Pilipinas 56 – Malaysia 60

Perlas Pilipinas’ quest to redeem themselves at the 2017 Southeast Asian Games stage will have to wait another two years as their gallant fight against the hosts fell short on Thursday.

Perlas dropped to 3-2 in the tournament standings and bade goodbye to their gold medal hopes again, a repeat of what happened in the 2015 edition in Singapore.

Despite playing just 13 hours earlier, the Filipinas kept themselves in the game early, although the usual lapses on the defensive end allowed Malaysia to pull away.

Most of Perlas’ mistakes were the simple lack of basketball fundamentals like failing to boxout, overhelping in the zone defense or being out of position, or giving up the baseline.

The hosts ended the second quarter scoring 11 straight points which broke a 23-all deadlock. Malaysia carried with them a nine-point lead into the final cushion.

Perlas once again tried to overcome the deficit, applying pressure in the backcourt. Baskets by Chack Cabinbin, Allana Lim, and Analyn Almazan cut the deficit to just three. Ara Abaca then hit five straight points including a bank-shot three to tie the score at 54 apiece under the final two minutes.

But Eugene Ting gave the upperhand back to the hosts before Almazan missed twice while Afril Bernardino turned the ball over. Cabinbin also missed a three-point attempt with just 30 seconds left as Malaysia prevailed.

Lim had 17 points on 50 percent shooting and six rebounds. Almazan added 11 markers.

While people put doubt on Malaysia putting Perlas on back to back tough games in less than 24 hours — which did play a part in the Philippines’ downfall — it also shouldn’t be left out that Perlas’ ASEAN counterparts always prepare well for the biennial meet.

Perlas has improved but their neighbors have also gotten better. The most recent setback highlighted the need for an own league or regular invitational tournaments, and even more full-time support to level the field.

Chemistry for big-time and high-level competition like the SEA Games couldn’t be achieved overnight. A bigger pool of players would have also helped. And unless Perlas gets that kind of backing and unless they play better more fundamentally sound basketball-wise, the nation will not be able to dominate the region, let alone be the decisive no. 1 team in it.

There is no denying the success Perlas has achieved in this chapter, as evidenced by their FIBA Asia Level I status, improved ranking, and even winning the SEABA Women’s crown last year.

But at the same time, failing to take home gold in the SEA Games the second straight time only shows Philippine women’s basketball may be rising but it hasn’t travelled far off where it started, and more work needs to be done.

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