SEA Games: Gilas' Mike Tolomia shrugs off jitters to shine brightest in final
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Mike Tolomia could not help but be worried heading into Gilas Pilipinas’ gold-medal game against Indonesia in the 29th Southeast Asian Games, even though the Philippines was favored to triumph and rule the event anew.
“Sobrang kinakabahan ako,” he told ABS-CBN News when the contest over. “Sabi ko nga kay Raymar Jose, parang kinakabahan ako sa game na ‘to.”
“Kasi, feeling ko, hindi namin na-dominate ang SEA Games na ito,” Tolomia explained. “So ‘yun ang kinaka-kaba ko.”
Tolomia did have reason to be nervous. The Filipinos labored to a 68-60 win over Singapore in the semifinals on Friday, and they were facing Indonesia – a team they struggled to beat in the finals of the 2015 SEA Games – anew.
For a while, it seemed as though Tolomia’s fears were coming true. Indonesia slowed down the game in the first quarter, preventing the Philippines from getting out in transition. Indeed, at the end of the opening frame, Indonesia had more fast-break points (4-0), though the Philippines clung to a 19-15 lead.
The momentum shifted in the Philippines’ favor in the second period, however, thanks in large part to Tolomia. The shifty guard began to wax hot from behind the arc, knocking down back-to-back three-pointers that helped the Philippines build a 33-17 advantage.
His third three-pointer of the quarter gave Gilas Pilipinas a 40-25 lead, and Tolomia and co. only piled on the points from there.
“Yung una kong shoot, tapos nasundan ng pangalawa, nakuha ko na agad ang kumpyansa ko,” Tolomia said of his second-quarter production wherein he put up 11 points. “Buti nagtuloy-tuloy.”
Tolomia wound up with 20 points on seven-of-12 shooting, capping his performance with his trademark step-back three-pointer with just 32.4 seconds left in the third quarter.
Though he may have been nervous to start the game, Tolomia wound up as the team’s brightest star in their gold medal game.
“Ito na ‘yung goal namin eh. Ito na ‘yung pinaka-importanteng game,” said Tolomia, who credited their intensity on defense as the true key to victory in Kuala Lumpur, especially with their shots not falling in their first few games.
“Yung defense talaga namin ang nagdadala sa amin sa mga panalo namin. Yun lang ang pinakita namin talaga ngayoon – ‘yung defense. Tapos ayun – nag-shoot ang mga tira namin, kaya lumayo kami,” he said.
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