TIGHT SPOT. Team Philippines’ Alfie Cabanog (No. 8) looks for an opening in their match against Indonesia at the start of the 11th ASEAN Para Games at GOR Sritex Arena in Surakarta, Indonesia on Saturday (July 30, 2022). The Philippines won, 15-10, and will next face Thailand at 12:30 p.m. and Cambodia at 2 p.m. on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of PSC)


SURAKARTA, Indonesia – Banking heavily on Alfie Cabanog’s inside game, the Philippines came from behind to stun Indonesia, 15-10, in the men’s 3x3 wheelchair basketball event for the country’s first win in the 11th ASEAN Para Games at the GOR Sritex Arena Saturday.

Down 0-2, the Filipinos rallied through the sterling post-play of Cabanog, who then combined with Kenneth Tapia in a pivotal 6-1 run in the stretch that broke a 9-all deadlock on the way to their initial triumph in the four-team, single-round series.

The win softened somewhat the early exit of their women’s counterparts, who absorbed back-to-back losses to Thailand and Laos by scores of 0-11 and 1-6, respectively.

Thailand crushed Cambodia 16-4 and Indonesia 18-2 in succession to seize the top spot in men’s play and assured itself of a ticket in the championship match, where the top two squads battle for the gold while the remaining teams dispute the bronze medal.

The Filipinos take on the Thais at 11:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m. in Manila) Sunday before facing the Cambodians at 1 p.m. (2 p.m. in Manila), with a victory over the latter ensuring a crack at the gold medal.

“We didn’t see our Indonesian opponents until we saw them on the floor. But when I saw Alfie was taller than them, I drew up plays to feed him the ball inside the paint,” said national coach Vernon Perea “If we beat Cambodia tomorrow (Sunday), then we are assured of facing Thailand in the finals.”

With the Filipinos gaining the upper hand, the hosts tried to stall time by questioning the height of Cabanog’s wheelchair, prompting technical officials to stop the match for a couple of minutes for remeasurement.

The lull could not stop the momentum of the Filipinos as Tapia saw the opening he needed when Cabanog was double-teamed to put the game away with his clutch drives.

Masayang-masaya po kami at binigay namin ang best para matalo ang (We are ecstatic and we gave our best to beat) Indonesia,” said Cabanog, who had eight points or more than half of the team’s total output.

The native of Datu Montawal, Maguindanao credited Perea’s patient coaching for his vast improvement since joining the national team in the 2017 ASEAN Para Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (PR)