What Rajko Toroman told Indonesia before Gilas game

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 23 2022 05:57 PM

Rajko Toroman, the program director of Indonesia men's basketball. FIBA.basketball
Rajko Toroman, the program director of Indonesia men's basketball. FIBA.basketball

Rajko Toroman, the program director of Indonesia men's basketball, knew they were underdogs heading into their gold medal match against the Philippines in the 31st Southeast Asian Games.

This did not faze him, however, and he made sure to tell his team what they needed to hear ahead of their contest.

"When the Philippines play against Indonesia, they come into the game with a lot of confidence," Toroman said on Sunday, in an appearance on "Play It Right TV" after the game. 

"I said to the players -- Okay guys, fight. Don't step back. We can be in a close game for the first five, six minutes. Let us show that we are not afraid of them. It will be a tight game until the end," he revealed.

"And it happened."

Indonesia, which did not make the podium in the 2019 SEA Games, built an early 8-2 lead against Gilas Pilipinas on Sunday night at the Thanh Trì District Sporting Hall in Hanoi. This good start gave the Indonesians the confidence they needed to hang tough with the Filipinos all throughout the contest.

They didn't fold even when Gilas surged ahead in the third quarter, leaning on a quick 9-0 outburst anchored by Brandon Jawato to take a 63-60 lead that they would not relinquish.

In the end game, they proved to be the more composed team as Indonesia held on for an 85-81 win, denying the Philippines a 14th consecutive gold medal and winning their first-ever men's basketball title in the SEA Games.

Toroman was full of praise for the Indonesian players who showed no fear of the powerhouse Gilas team that was unbeaten heading into Sunday's game. The Philippines won their first five games in Hanoi by an average of 38 points.

But Indonesia was also undefeated entering the contest, and Toroman noted that their team "really played good basketball" throughout the tournament.

They found a breakout star in 19-year-old Derrick Michael Xzavierro, who averaged 14.8 points and 10.5 rebounds in the SEA Games and was crucial in the win against Gilas.

The x-factor, however, was their naturalized big man Marques Bolden. The former Duke University standout missed Indonesia's first four games due to a back issue, and played just five minutes in their previous game against Vietnam.

But he took painkillers to be able to play against Gilas, said Toroman, and wound up with 18 points and 10 rebounds in 32 minutes. His tip-in with 41 seconds left put Indonesia up 81-76, giving their team precious breathing room.

For Toroman, they built the foundation of their victory in the first six minutes of the contest, when they refused to let Gilas pull away quickly as the Filipinos had done for most of the tournament.

"I think the main point of the game was the first five, six minutes, when we showed them that we are not afraid, and that we will fight for each ball," he said. "In this moment… everything is possible."

The victory in the SEA Games is a major stepping stone for Toroman and their program, especially as they are set to host the FIBA Asia Cup in July. Though they will co-host the FIBA World Cup next year with Japan and the Philippines, Indonesia must first finish in the top eight of the continental event to qualify.

"We are still thinking about the future of Indonesian basketball," guaranteed Toroman.