MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas was fully expected to win the Southeast Asian Basketball Association Championship, and the hosts were expected to win in dominant fashion.
For head coach Chot Reyes, however, it was also important that they won by playing the right way.
The Philippines completed a dominant campaign in the regional tilt on Thursday, beating Indonesia 97-64 in the gold-medal game.
It marked the first time Gilas failed to breach 100 points in the tournament, but it barely mattered as the Filipinos completed a six-game sweep of the event to book a ticket to the FIBA Asia Cup.
Gilas Pilipinas had an average winning margin of 58.7 points in the SEABA Championship, and its superb play came as no surprise to the opposition. Indeed, the coaches of the other teams made it a point to stress that Gilas' dominance is good for the region, as it will inspire other Southeast Asian teams to improve as well.
For Reyes, being considered the gold standard of Southeast Asian basketball means that his squad not only has to win emphatically, but it also has to play in a way that honors the game.
"We keep reminding the players to play the game the right way," Reyes said after securing the gold. "I said, let's make fantastic, spectacular plays, and then let's run down on defense."
"I don't want any gloating, I don't want any external or unnecessary actions. I don't want any taunting," he said. "I thought we did a really good job on that. The players kept their focus on what needed to be done."
Indeed, there was very little extra-curricular activity for Gilas Pilipinas throughout the tournament. Even when they came up with a highlight reel play – such as a Japeth Aguilar slam dunk or a booming Matthew Wright triple – their instinct was to dap their teammates for the assist.
"No unnecessary actions, no unnecessary movements," said Reyes. "I thought that was very important – that we play the game the right way."
Wright, who proved to be the team's most consistent outside shooter in the tournament, doubled down on his coach's statement.
"We had a vision, we had a job that we had to do. We did it, and we did it the right way," he said. "We worked hard. We didn't just win off pure talent and size. Every single one of us played as a collective unit."
Wright stressed that their dominance is brought about not just by their advantage in talent and size, but also by their hard work and execution of their game plan. A less focused team may have played around with the inferior opposition, but not Gilas Pilipinas.
"We played together, we played hard. We played harder than any other team," Wright said emphatically. "We didn't just win off pure talent. We actually tried to work on the small things that also win games."
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