[PHOTO AT LEFT - RP basketball team manager Mike Romero waves the Philippine flag as officials and players celebrate after crushing the Thai squad to win the gold medal at the 24th Southeast Asian Games at the Suranaree Keelapiron Stadium in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand yesterday. Photo by JOEY MENDOZA]

NAKHON RATCHASIMA, DECEMBER 14, 2007 (STAR) By Nelson Beltran  – The Philippine team gave Thailand a royal beating, 94-53, before the Thai princess to underscore its return to the regional basketball throne after a two-year absence in the 24th Southeast Asian Games.

The victory formally completed a sweep of the event by the Filipinos who had virtually clinched the title and the gold a day ago with a 108-60 thrashing of Malaysia.

“We know this moment is eagerly awaited by the Filipino nation. This is for all of us,” said Harbour Centre owner and RP amateur basketball patron Mikee Romero.

“The gold medal is worth all the hard work we put up for this endeavor. This is our share to the RP cause in this SEA Games,” said coach Junel Baculi.

Though they could afford to relax with the gold medal in the bag before the game, the Nationals were all business notwithstanding the royal presence provided by Thai crown princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, a badminton competitor in the games.

If ever they relaxed, it was in the first half where they opted not to press, unlike in their games against the Indonesians and the Malaysians.

The Nationals stepped on the gas in the final half, outscoring the hosts by 13 in the third quarter and 16 in the final canto for the 41-point triumph coming off earlier murderous wins over Cambodia, 136-82, Indonesia, 75-49, and Malaysia.

While the RP team swept its way to the gold-medal feat, Indonesia took the silver on a 3-1 win-loss record and Malaysia the bronze on an even 2-2 slate.

This RP squad is easily the most merciless Nationals that played in the games in years.

Coach Baculi credited their mean game on their preparation that saw them play in Jakarta, Brunei, Korea, and Singapore the last six months.

“After all the hard work, mission accomplished,” said Baculi, ably backstopped by chief deputy Louie Alas.

A team putting premium on running, passing and shooting from the outside, the Nationals rifled in eight triples against the Thais.

Center Beau Belga and two-guard Jason Castro made 14 points apiece while pointguard Al Vergara and forward-center Jervy Cruz scored 12 each to lead the Nationals in scoring.

The victorious team, which worked on P25 million fund in its SEAG buildup and actual participation by Harbour Centre, is flying home this morning.

Except for Cruz, who’s a UST mainstay, the members of the team rejoin their mother ball clubs for the resumption of PBL action Tuesday.

Sweet sweep for RP batters Friday, December 14, 2007

NAKHON RATCHASIMA – The Philippines’ fabled batters scored yet another SEA Games twin kill.

The Blu Girls completed a SEAG record five regulated wins after blanking the Singaporeans, 7-0, while the Blu Boys highlighted their own championship run with an 11-2 victory over the Indonesians in four and a half innings.

With main backer Jean Henri Lhuillier cheering from the sidelines, the Blu Girls and Blu Boys took turns putting up a show at the close of the softball competitions here yesterday.

“As a first-timer coach, I’m very happy with what we achieved. A record feat in the games, I’m very proud,” said coach Ana Santiago whose players won four games in five innings and one in six.

Pitcher Syrel Ramos had another solid game for the team.

“We reaped the fruit of our labor. We’re all very happy,” said men’s coach Isaac Bacarisas.

The Blu Boys, who trained in Japan, set the early tone of the match with a three-run splurge in the first inning.

They added another run in the second before making it 6-1 in the lower third.

The Indons drilled in a second run in the next frame, but it proved to be their last hurrah as Orlando Binarao smacked a two-run double and Jasper Cabrera followed it up with a two-run homer. – Nelson Beltran

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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