The Energen Pilipinas national youth team booked their third straight win in the tournament after whipping Malaysia, 84-65, in the Southeast Asian Basketball Association Under-18 Championships in Singapore.
With the win, the Philippines ensured they would finish no lower than 2nd in the tournament, thus qualifying for the 22nd FIBA Asia Under-18 Championships to be held in Ulan Bator, Mongolia later this year. The top three finishers in the SEABA tilt are assured seats in the Asian meet.
Mario Bonleon, the top scorer in the Philippines’ 96-point win in their opener against Laos, again led the team in scoring with 16 points. Co-captain J-Jay Alejandro scored 13 and Mark Olayon had 12 while big man Jay Javelosa finished with eight points, 14 rebounds and two blocks.
Liew Kit Hoow and Lian Wei Loo led Malaysia with 11 and 10 points, respectively, but combined to shoot just 8-of-23 (34.8%) from the field. Malaysia as a team shot just 32%.
But it wasn’t easy pickings for Filipinos, at least at the start of the game. Energen Pilipinas led by just three points at the end of the first quarter and saw their lead cut down to one, 43-42, at the half.
The Philippines buckled down in the second half, pushing their lead back up to double-digits before the end of the third quarter and holding Malaysia to just eight points in the final period as they turned the close encounter into a rout.
The Filipinos again dominated the inside, grabbing a 48-28 edge in rebounding and a 38-22 advantage in points in the paint.
The final task for the Olsen Racela-helmed squad will be similarly unbeaten Indonesia in a virtual championship match. Both teams enter the last day having swept their games against Malaysia, Laos and host Singapore and will decide the title in their head-to-head.
The Philippines will be looking to defend the championship that the Kiefer Ravena-led Nokia Pilipinas team won in the last SEABA tournament two years ago.
» Charged to experience: Petron coach Olsen Racela wants to move past loss to Talk ‘N Text
» One more chance: Petron Blaze Boosters throw full support behind Renaldo Balkman
» Petron coach Olsen Racela willing to give Renaldo Balkman another chance