By JONAS TERRADO
Gilas Pilipinas shifts its focus on trying to repeat its double gold feat when the centerpiece 5-on-5 basketball competitions of the 31st Southeast Asian Games starts Monday in Hanoi, Vietnam.
The women cagers, who won for the first time back in the 2019 Games at home, open their bid against Indonesia at 9 a.m. local time (10 a.m. Manila time) before the star-studded men’s squad tackles Thailand at 3 p.m. (4 p.m.)
Both Gilas teams are eager to rule both events after the Philippines failed to defend its titles in the 3×3 which saw the men’s settling for bronze and the ladies placing fourth.
Everything seems a formality for the men’s, which features June Mar Fajardo and seven fellow PBA cagers, and brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena.
Kiefer is eyeing an unprecedented sixth gold medal, a feat no Filipino baller has ever done in the regional meet.
Coach Chot Reyes, however, is wary of the matchup with Thailand, which in the past has always been in contention for a medal.
The Philippines is one of seven teams which will compete in the men’s side, which will use a single-round format with the top team at the end winning the gold.
It will be the same thing in the distaff side as coach Pat Aquino prepares for a tough task ahead.
Gilas ended its long quest for a gold in 2019 by winning all three games against Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia before home fans at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Six teams will compete this time with the addition of host Vietnam and Singapore.
Afril Bernardino, Janine Pontejos, Clare Castro and Angel Surada will try to atone for the disappointment of their 3×3 campaign when they join forces with Ella Fajardo, Khate Castillo, Gabi Bade, Camille Clarin, Steff Berberabe, Chack Cabinbin, Andrea Tongco and Trina Guytingco.