A gold that ranks right up there

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    TRIUMPHANT: Some players of Gilas Pilipinas celebrate their latest conquest.
    TRIUMPHANT: Some players of Gilas Pilipinas celebrate their latest conquest.

    ONE would think that coach Tim Cone, the winningest tactician in the pro league with 21 titles and two grand slams to boot, could not ask for more.

    Wrong.

    Cone got the win that he had longed for when the all-pro Gilas Pilipinas squad dismantled a game but outclassed Thailand 115-81 last Tuesday night in the title match of the men’s basketball competitions of the 30th Southeast Asian Games before a big crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.

    The runaway win, fashioned in front of 12,462 fans, enabled the Filipino dribblers to finish the tourney untouchable and bag the gold in the regional sports spectacle for the 13th straight time and 18th overall.

    Cone, 61, also called the shots for the national team in the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games, when the country settled for the bronze. Twenty-one years later, Cone finally hit paydirt.

    “You can’t go wrong with the gold medal. My Gosh, a gold medal, that’s something you can remember forever,” Cone gushed.

    “I mean, if you’re like (multi-titled swimmer) Mark Spitz and had 10 gold medals, maybe that’s something (normal) but if you got one, that’s going to be incredibly special,” he added.

    Cone said winning the mint in the games, in front of Pinoy fans, will be one of his most cherished triumphs in his decorated coaching career.

    “I’ve won a few championships in the PBA but this one ranks right up there,” Cone said.

    “The bronze in the Asian Games, looking back, was special as well, but just the whole experience of being here (SEA Games) and being with these guys and the support of everyone in the country, SBP, Al Panlilio, Alfrancis Chua and the support of the players, these players were so phenomenal so it was a great experience all around.

    “So, you’re gonna remember the gold because of all the experiences you went through this last week.”

    June Mar Fajardo led the nationals with a team-high 17 points, while LA Tenorio and Christian Standhardinger added 16 markers apiece.

    Vic Manuel, Matthew Wright, Stanley Pringle, and Kiefer Ravena also did their part with 14, 14, 13, and 10 points, respectively.

    Gilas lost mainstays Jayson Castro and Roger Pogoy due to injuries in the lead-up to the games but the balance, chemistry, and depth of the squad were simply too much for the opposition, according to Cone.

    “I love the composition of this team, I love the balance, I love the chemistry,” he said. “I thought those were the real strengths of this team.

    “We didn’t have a lot of time, and that was a little bit scary,” admitted Cone, before adding having seasoned campaigners on his squad made things easier.

    “The guys were great. They’re veterans, they know the game. It’s just a real honor to be around these guys. It is amazing to be around Chris Ross, June Mar (Fajardo), Christian (Standhardinger), watching these guys play. I was always on the other side,” Coe said.

    “It’s amazing to see their devotion to the game and their devotion to flag and country. They were awesome. I can’t, seriously, can’t complain about one little bit.”

    Mission accomplished for Cone and Gilas.