Loss to Indonesia 'not the end of the world' for Gilas, says Toroman

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 23 2022 01:01 PM

Indonesia defends against Thirdy Ravena of the Philippines in the 31st SEA Games. PSC/POC Pool Photo.
Indonesia defends against Thirdy Ravena of the Philippines in the 31st SEA Games. PSC/POC Pool Photo.

Indonesia's stunning victory over the Philippines in the 31st Southeast Asian Games was a massive result for their team, one that ended the Filipinos' decades of dominance in the region.

Behind their hot three-point shooting and timely offensive rebounds, Indonesia pulled off an 85-81 shocker on Sunday night to hand Gilas Pilipinas their first -- and only -- loss of the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi. 

But it was a loss that snapped the Philippines' streak of 13 consecutive SEA Games gold medals, while ensuring that Indonesia will stand at the top of the men's basketball podium for the first time ever. 

"Every win, especially when you beat a strong team like the Philippines, like Gilas, it's exciting," said Indonesia's program director for basketball, Rajko Toroman, of the historic result.

"Gilas is so competitive," added the Serbian, who previously took charge of the Philippine national basketball team in the early 2000s. "I am an experienced coach, but still, [this] makes me happy and excited.

"When I saw our players in the locker room, what it means for them and for the country, I was really happy for the guys," he added, speaking to Dyan Castillejo and Quinito Henson on Play It Right TV shortly before the awarding ceremonies in Hanoi.

It was the first time since the 1989 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur that the Philippines did not win the gold medal.

Yet Toroman is also aware that one win does not immediately change the balance of power in Southeast Asian basketball. Gilas, on a night where they shot just 3-of-16 from long distance, still came within one possession of Indonesia late. 

The Indonesians also had to survive foul trouble on both their big men, with June Mar Fajardo bothering both naturalized player Marques Bolden and up-and-coming star Derrick Michael Xzavierro all throughout the game.

"One loss doesn't mean that the program is not good," said Toroman. 

"I think that one loss doesn't mean that it's the end of the world," he added. "They're one of the best national teams in Asia."

Toroman pointed out that Gilas didn't field its strongest possible team for the SEA Games, with players like Dwight Ramos, Kai Sotto, and naturalized center Ange Kouame all absent from the squad for a variety of reasons. 

Ramos still had his commitments to his B.League team, while Sotto is in the midst of preparing for the NBA Rookie Draft. Kouame was playing for Ateneo de Manila University in the UAAP while Gilas geared up for the SEA Games.

"They have a lot of options to change some of the guys and make a stronger team, and they will do that for sure, especially after this loss," said Toroman, who is already looking forward to the FIBA Asia Cup that will be hosted by Indonesia in July.

"We surprised them today," he acknowledged, "But still, they can make a good result in FIBA Asia."

Indonesia's rising star Derrick Michael Xzavierro. FIBA.basketball
Indonesia's rising star Derrick Michael Xzavierro. FIBA.basketball

His own team doesn't have the same wealth of options as the Philippines, Toroman revealed. They got superb contributions from Bolden (18 points, 10 rebounds), and Xzavierro (14 points, 7 rebounds), who figures to be a problem for their regional rivals in the decade to come. Abraham Grahita was a crucial factor as well, scoring 17 points, and Brandon Jawato sparked the third quarter run that pushed Indonesia ahead for good.

"But we cannot change anybody," Toroman admitted. "The 12 players that we have now, that's it."

Still, their triumph in the SEA Games is certainly a boost of confidence for Indonesia. They will co-host the FIBA World Cup 2023 with Japan and the Philippines next year, but must first finish in the Top 8 of the FIBA Asia Cup in order to qualify for the showpiece event.

"For Indonesia to beat the Philippines and to win the SEA Games, it's something great," said Toroman. "Our players were crying in the locker room, they were celebrating… They deserve it."

"All these times, we really played good basketball. I think at the end of the day, we deserve to win," he added.