Tokyo Olympics bronze winner Eumir Marcial mauled his unheralded Timor Leste opponent to lead a final-day, four-gold medal haul that somehow lost luster after Gilas Pilipinas failed in its mission on Sunday in the 31st Southeast Asian Games here.
Showing superior skills, Marcial made quick work of Delio Anzageci Mouzinho, forcing a referee-stopped contest (RSC) victory in the first round of the middleweight finals, following through on big victories scored earlier by Ian Clark Bautista and Rogen Ladon at the Bac Ninh Stadium.
But the story of the day, the saddest in Team Philippines’ participation here, was the stunning 81-85 defeat suffered by Gilas Pilipinas to a gritty Indonesian squad backstopped by former NBA player Marques Bolden and coached by former Gilas mentor Raiko Toroman.
The defeat came after the Gilas Pilipinas women’s team absorbed a similarly surprising 93-96 setback at the hands of the upstart Malaysian squad at the Thanh Tri Gymnasium earlier, although the loss was somehow softened by the fact the distaff team still won the gold medal via the winner-over-the-other rule.
The Gilas women’s cause was helped along by Vietnam, which beat Malaysia 69-65 late Saturday night, the Malaysians’ second defeat in five games.
With a 4-1 card, the Gilas women bagged the gold. Indonesia can match that record with a win over Singapore later Sunday but Gilas will still prevail, having beaten the Indons 93-77 Monday last week.
With a 5-1 mark, the men’s squad coached by Chot Reyes, who took over when Tab Baldwin gave up the post last January, became only the third Philippine team in SEA Games history to fail in its golden quest after similar silver medal finishes by the country in the 1979 and 1989 games, both in Malaysia, against 18 title conquests.
This immediately prompted calls on social media for Reyes to resign, with his detractors pointing out that the biennial competition is the lowest form of competition in Asia.
The last time Reyes coached Gilas was in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, with the team winning just three of seven games to finish seventh overall.
“Our players played their best,” Reyes said after emerging from the dugout. “Indonesia came up with a very good game plan. They shot well from the three-point line. In the end, we just couldn’t match it.
“Obviously that’s on me. I take full accountability and responsibility for the result. Like I said, they tried their best and that’s sports. That’s life. Sometimes, things don’t work out the way we played,” he added.
Lost in the horror and agony of that loss were the victories posted by Ladon, who edged Thao Tran Van of Vietnam 3-2 in the men’s 52kg division, and Bautista, who humbled Naing Latt of Myanmar 5-0 in the men’s 57kg class.
The other Pinoy boxer in the finals, Tokyo Olympian Irish Magno, lost to Vietnamese Nguyen Thi Tam in the women’s flyweight championship and bagged the silver, the same fate suffered by the esports team in its League of Legends finals showdown against Vietnam 0-3.
The Philippine contingent, backed by the Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Olympic Committee, finished the 12-day biennial games with 51 gold medals on top of 67 silver and 92 bronze medals for fourth overall, a big comedown from its overpowering performance three years ago when it bagged the country’s second overall crown with a harvest of 149-117-121.
Host Vietnam, still battling Thailand for the football crown, the most cherished gold here at press time, continued to put the finishing touches to its dominant run to the overall crown with a 193-115-109 haul, followed by Thailand (84-96-126) and Indonesia (63-83-74).
Singapore, which seized fourth from the Philippines last Friday, remained stuck at 47 golds with 45 silver and 67 bronze medals for fifth.
Of the 11 participating countries here, only Timor Leste failed to win a gold.
Bolden, who played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, served as the lynchpin for the Indon squad that finished with a 6-0 card, with Abraham Grahita also lending support.
With his teammates watching from the sidelines, Marcial, 26, who has already won two pro fights, went to work as soon as the bell sounded, delivering solid punches to his foe.
“I shouted to him to extend the fight, but it didn’t reach the last two-minute mark, I guess. The referee just stopped the fight,” women’s featherweight bronze medalist Nesthy Petecio said after cheering Marcial.
The Philippines ended the boxing competition with three gold medals, one silver and five bronze medals, a far cry from the seven golds, three silver medals and two bronze medals won by the country in the 2019 SEA Games.
Gymnastics emerged as the goldmine for Pinoys in these games, with world vault champion Carlos Yulo leading a 7-4-1 harvest.
“I congratulate Malaysia. They still had that heart to play the game. Even though they were down, we really had a hard time. They were making shots,” said Gilas Women coach Pat Aquino.
The Gilas women had an average winning margin of 23 points in their past four games in winning their second straight SEA Games title.
“I still tip my hat off for the girls. They played their hearts out. It’s just not as sweet as we want it to be. But we are still gold medalist. I’m so proud of them having that feat,” said Aquino. (PR)