Despite skipping this tournament the last five years, the Philippine national men’s wheelchair basketball team made a respectable comeback by annexing the bronze medal in the 7th ASEAN Para Games held from January 11 to 21 at the Wunna Theikdi Indoor Stadium B in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar.
The Filipinos made mince meat of host Myanmar, 82-39, in the battle for third spot. Thailand beat Malaysia for the gold.
Marcos Rabasto topscored for the team known as the Pilipinas Warriors with 21 points. But it was Jefferson Legacion who stole the show with an almost triple double game after tallying 18 rebounds, 16 markers and eight assists. Juanito Mingarine, who was selected to the Mythical First Team, added 16 points. Freddie Magdayo chipped in 13 markers.
From a narrow 35-26 halftime lead, the Nationals pulled away in the third period to enter the last quarter with a comfortable 55-34 advantage. And in the final ten minutes, the Pinoys showed no mercy to the home team as they limited Myanmar to just five points.
The Philippines’ rampage in the second half resulted to an impressive 47% shooting clip from the field as opposed to just 24% for Myanmar. The Warriors also outrebounded their opponents, 53-33.
The Filipinos bowed to Malaysia in the semis, 38-55.
A big blow to the team’s cause was the injury sustained by starting center Rene Macabenguil after its second game in the tourney.
Under second year coach Vernon Perea, the national team has made vast improvements since it was out of commission for over a year. But the lack of sponsorships hindered the team’s preparations and participation in international tournaments. Last year however, the Warriors were able to compete in an invitational tournament in Bahrain and gained much experience. They will next try to qualify for the Asian Para Games this coming May in Bangkok, Thailand.
Another major disadvantage the Philippine team has is the lack of the new model of wheelchairs. The team is using the outdated chairs that weight about 15 pounds each. All other Asian teams are using wheelchairs that are just half as heavy, which give them more comfort and speed when playing. Even the training facility has been a constant problem due to the unavailability of gyms and high cost of rent.
The Warriors are appealing for support from the private sector as they try to make ends meet each day. Interested parties may visit the PHILSPADA office at the Philippine Sports Commission compound in Ultra, Meralco Avenue, Pasig City.
The other members of the hard-fighting squad are Harold Lilagan, Alex Teves, Leon Caranog, Mark Anthony Ramirez, Richard Alegre, Marlon Nacita and Danilo “DJ” Castro, with Harry Solanoy as the assistant coach.