(STAR) By Nelson Beltran – All the Harbour Centre-Team Philippines has to do is show up for its match against Thailand today and its SEAG golden quest is done.

The celebrated Filipino cagers all but wrapped up the 24th SEA Games men’s basketball championship with a 108-60 demolition of Malaysia before flag-waving and cheering supporters last night at the Keelapirom Stadium.

The RP men avenged a sorry 56-74 defeat the RP women suffered at the hands of their Malaysian counterparts earlier in the day.

Thinking the silver medal was already in the bag, the RP cagebelles got a big surprise from the Malaysians and instead settled for the bronze.

Despite their Fil-Am recruits and training abroad, the team failed to duplicate its best SEAG finish of first runner-up in Chiang Mai in 1995.

The men’s team quickly made it even with Malaysia, coming out smoking and torching the Malaysians all the way to the finish.

While the Nationals jacked up their win-loss record to 3-0, the Malaysians closed out their stint here with an even 2-2 slate for a sure bronze. To Indonesians, with a 3-1 closing card, belonged the silver.

The Nationals will have their virtual victory ride versus the Thais at 3 p.m. today.

Even in case of a disaster with RP ending up tied with Indonesia, the Nationals get the gold medal by virtue of the win-over-the-other rule.

It’s the RP team’s eighth straight SEAG championship in the sport closest to the heart of the Filipinos.

Curiously, the Nationals took the clincher against the Malaysians, the only team which have won over the Philippines in the entire SEAG history. The Malaysians stole the crown from the Filipinos when they hosted the biennial meet in Kuala Lumpur in 1989.

“It’s all over but the non-bearing game against Thailand. But expect the boys to still work hard (against the Thais) for pride and joy of all of us Filipinos,” said Harbour Centre owner and amateur basketball godfather Mikee Romero.

“Mission accomplished but we still have a game to be played, we might as well go out there, play our game and hopefully provide morale boost and inspiration to other RP teams still competing in the games,” said coach Junel Baculi.

Like the Cambodians and the Indons, the Malaysians were simply no match to the young, talented PBL selection.

The Nationals figured in a scoring showdown among themselves with nine of them each scoring at least eight.

They rained down 17 triples on the Malaysians with Jeff Chan and skipper Allan Salangsang making four each, Boyet Bautista, Al Vergara and Jonathan Fernandez two apiece and Richard Alonzo, Jason Castro and Eugene Tan one each.

Chan, Salangsang, Alonzo, Vergara, Fernandez, Beau Belga and Jervy Cruz all finished in double figures. Gabe Norwood had only two points but he issued six assists, hauled down five rebounds and made two steals.

They raced to a 33-14 lead in the first quarter, stretched it to 55-32 at halftime and never let up in the final half to the delight of the Filipino crowd.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved