While the Philippines continued to dominate the sport of basketball in the region, Thailand came in a close second after finishing with three silvers of their own at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
The hosts Philippines swept all four events at the most recent edition of the games in Manila, while Thailand’s ladies won the silver medal in both the 3X3 and traditional 5-on-5 basketball competitions. Their men’s counterparts also finished in second place behind heavy favorites Gilas Pilipinas.
After winning the silver medal two years ago at the biennial meet in Malaysia, the Thai women’s basketball team understandably had set their target on bringing home the top prize after adding top-caliber player in WNBA guard Tiffany Bias, who is of American and Thai descent.
While a dominant Philippines men’s team winning basketball gold was practically a given, the women’s side was very much wide open especially after 13-time SEA Games titlists Malaysia was given the boot by the much-improved Philippine team.
Both women’s teams were undefeated at 3-0, and as if it was fated, a showdown between the two came down to the final game of the tournament.
Bias certainly believes Thailand, five-time SEA Games titlists themselves, could have done better during that final match, where they fell to the hosts in the second half, 91-71.
“I feel like we didn’t play our best. We are definitely a better team than that,” remarked Bias, who seemingly struggled to find her shot during the game but had still managed to finish with 15 points, four rebounds, and four assists.
“I think at the half, we were solid coming back from being down. We just didn’t adjust well when they came out in a zone. I’ll give it to them, they shot the ball well. They just had a better night than us, so I commend them on their execution.”
The 27-year-old former WNBA champion, who appeared in her first SEA Games stint with Thailand, also lauded the sizable crowd that seemingly gave the Filipinas an extra push to help them secure the first gold medal finish for the host country.
“I think it is hard anytime you are on someone’s home court. Their fans are great and really brought energy to the arena,” added Bias, who also said she would be open to playing professionally in the country should the opportunity present itself. “You all show so much love. I would want to play here if you have a Philippine women’s league. I think that the fans show a lot of love and everyone is so nice.”
Meanwhile, forward Supavadee Kunchuan is no stranger to playing against the Philippines. She was part of the gold medal-winning team that swept the competition in Myanmar six years ago, and also helped Thailand win bronze in the 2015 edition in Singapore and silver in 2017 in Malaysia.
Kunchuan wanted to thank and credit her resurgence to her family of teammates, and all of the team’s supporters for helping them finish at the podium once again, but most of all, to the squad’s new head coach Apaipong Netsiriswan.
“I very much appreciate my family, and the president of Thailand Basketball Association (Nipondh Chawalitmontien). And coach Apaipong, even though we had a short period of time together, he brought my passion towards basketball back, which I had lost two years ago,” shared Kunchuan.
Usually relied on at the defensive end, Kunchuan finished the game with 12 points, seven rebounds, and four steals, but was plagued by foul trouble for the most part against the Philippines.
The duo, together with a solid core of players, have been instrumental in Thailand winning their ninth overall silver medal and has now set their sights on reclaiming the SEA Games gold two years from now in Hanoi, Vietnam.
“I’m proud of us as a team. I’m proud of my teammates for fighting, but I am most proud to bring home a medal for Thailand. Thank you for all your support and love. I am truly grateful and honored to play for the country. I love Thailand and look forward to the future of growing basketball in Thailand,” closed Bias.
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