PINAY POWER. Filipina boxer Aira Villegas (left) connects a solid right to the head of Vilay Vongphachan of Laos in the women’s 44-kg. category of the 30th Southeast Asian Games boxing competition at the Philippine International Convention Center on Wednesday (Dec. 4, 2019). Villegas whipped Vongphachan, 5-0, to advance to the semifinals. (PNA photo by Jess M. Escaros Jr.)

MANILA -- Four members of the Philippine boxing team scored smashing victories and advanced to the semifinals of the 30th Southeast Asian Games at the PICC Forum on Wednesday night.
Former world champion Josie Gabuco, Aira Villegas, Irish Magno, and Carlo Paalam won their respective quarterfinal matches at the start of the boxing competitions in the biennial meet.

Paalam, Villegas, and Magno won their bouts via shutouts, with only the 32-year-old Gabuco, winner of a gold medal in the 2012 AIBA World Championship, receiving stiff resistance from Thai opponent Raksat Chuthamat in the women’s light-flyweight division.

Gabuco pulled off a 4-1 victory over Chuthamat, a former bronze medal winner in the world championship.

In the women’s bantamweight class, Villegas whipped Vijayphone Vongphachan of Laos 5-0 while Magno pulled off the same score against Singaporean Leona Hui in the flyweight class.

Paalam, the lone male Filipino boxer to see action on opening day, cruised to a 5-0 victory over Khamphouvanh Khamsathone of Laos in the light-flyweight class.

In volleyball, the Philippine men’s team handily beat Vietnam, 25-20, 25-21, 25-12 and clinched a semifinal berth at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City, also on Wednesday night.

Bryan Bagunas and Marck Espejo combined for 35 points as the Filipinos crashed the semis for the first time since returning to volleyball action in the 2015 games, in the process getting a chance to end a 28-year medal drought.

The win was the second straight for the Philippines and climbed to a share of the Pool B lead with Indonesia, which also posted its second straight victory, a 25-20, 25-17, 35-33 win over Cambodia, and also clinched a semis slot.

The Filipinos, who outsmarted Cambodia 29-27, 25-17, 25-17 last Monday, and the Indonesians clash on Friday, with the winner gaining the top spot in the group.

Myanmar, led by Aung Thu who unloaded 25 points, scored a 26-24, 25-21, 25-18 victory over Singapore for its first win in Pool A.

Bagunas scored 22 points on 17 kills, three service aces and two blocks while Espejo had 13 points on top of 13 excellent receptions and seven digs as the Filipinos ended the medal hopes of reigning bronze medalist Vietnam, which absorbed its second straight loss.

Skipper Johnvic de Guzman, middle blockers Kim Malabunga and Francis Saura chipped in seven points each, while teen setter Joshua Retamar dished out 17 excellent sets on top of four markers.

“We’re elated because the Philippines finally advanced to the semis. The last time we won a medal was in 1991,” national coach Dante Alinsunurin said. The Philippines also hosted the 1991 SEA Games.

Rivan Nurmukliand Tamamilang Febriant had 22 and 12 points, respectively, as Indonesia showed the door to Cambodia, which was single-handedly carried by Kuon Mom who had 21 points. (PR)