SEA Games: PHI men's volleyball team advances to the gold medal round
Mark Escarlote on Dec 08, 2019 08:26 PM
The Philippines are through to the gold medal match. (Arvin Lim)
The Philippines slayed a giant Sunday night as the Filipinos, energized by an electric crowd inside the PhilSports Arena, dethroned Thailand, 17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 27-25, 17-15, to book a gold medal match berth in the 30th Southeast Asian Games men’s volleyball competition.
The Nationals ended a 42-year wait to advance in the final since their runner-up finish in the very first edition of the biennial meet in 1977 in Malaysia. Burma (now Myanmar) won the gold that year.
The PHI, world ranked no. 131, sent the world no. 39 and former four-time champions Thais in the battle for bronze against Myanmar while setting up a rematch against group stage tormentors Indonesia for the mint on Tuesday.
Kim Malabunga broke a 12-12 tie in the fifth frame with a huge kill block to put the Nationals up. Amorntep Konhan tied it at 13 after Thailand called time. Kittinon Namkhunthod put Thailand at match point but Konhan sent his serve out.
Konhan scored on an off the block hit but Malabunga tied it again at 15. Bryan Bagunas got a kill block in after an unsuccessful challenge by Thailand before sealing the win with a thunderous hammer to an open spot at the back.
Bagunas scored 27 points to anchor the Philippines' assault, pounding in 23 points, with two kill blocks and an ace while hitting partner Marck Espejo scored all but one of his 20 markers from attacks and added 12 excellent receptions. Malabunga accounted for six of the Nationals' 16 kill blocks to finish with 14 points.
“Sobrang saya. Sobrang di ko maipaliwanag ‘yung nararamdaman ko ngayon. Sobrang tuwa kasi nakuha namin ‘yung panalo ngayon and sure silver na kami,” said PHI head coach Dante Alinsunurin. “Siyempre kahit papano, kailangan pa rin naming magtrabaho mamaya o bukas para sa darating na championship.”
Young setter Joshua Retamar tallied 22 excellent and had six points including three kill blocks for the Nationals. Rex Intal, who played in four sets, and Ranran Abdilla posted six points each while Jack Kalingking had a superb outing manning the floor with 14 excellent receptions and eight digs.
Thailand tried to shake off the Filipinos, who breathed down the Thais necks, 22-21, in the fourth frame. Thailand went up, 24-21, only to see the PHI come back to life.
The host team saved three match points to knot the set before Bagunas scored to put the PHI up, 25-24.
Konhan answered with a hit but Bagunas hammered another kill before the PHI completed the comeback after an attack error by Thailand to force a decider.
The Nationals woke up from a sluggish first set with an inspired second frame as they pulled away late to take a 23-18 lead off a Ranran Abdilla hit. The Thais scored two straight before Malabunga sealed the equalizer with a block and a quick hit.
Thailand went up, 17-14, in the third but got a serious scare from the Filipinos as spark plug Intal put the home team up, 21-20, with a quick kill of the Thais’ misreception. The two squads exchange hits in the next plays with Espejo knotting it at 23.
Konhan put Thailand at set point before Thai-Malian Kissada Nilsawai finished the set with a solid block on Espejo’s attack.
Konhan fired 20 points while Nilsawai scored 16 for Thailand.
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