Gilas rallies to beat China, advances to Asian Games gold medal game
Against a China team replete with Fiba World Cup veterans, Gilas Pilipinas looked headed for a consolation game for the bronze medal.
But once again, Justin Brownlee had better ideas.
The beloved naturalized ace, who took a backseat to NBA star Jordan Clarkson in the global showcase last month, fired 17 points in the final period including the go-ahead triple with 24 ticks remaining as Gilas Pilipinas stunned host China, 77-76, in the 19th Asian Games semifinals on Wednesday night.
“Coach Tim (Cone), he told us before the game to be something special to win this game,” Brownlee told One Sports on the heels of the comeback win that sealed the Filipinos’ place in the gold medal match.
That he was.
The Barangay Ginebra star finished with 33 points to lead a fightback from 20 points down against the Chinese and put the Philippines back to where it wanted to be since the weekend: against Jordan in the finalé this Friday night.
“We’d love to have another shot at them, however, we have to earn our way back to the Finals to see them again,” national coach Tim Cone told the Inquirer following an 87-62 loss to the Rondae Hollis-Jefferson-led squad last Saturday.
That setback put them on a longer route to the podium, needing a qualification game to get to the playoff round en route to a semifinals showdown against Team Dragon with nine holdovers from the Fiba World Cup squad that played—and lost to Gilas—in Manila.
Scottie Thompson had 13 points and eight rebounds, while June Mar Fajardo and CJ Perez added 8 each in the effort that assures the country at least a silver medal in the continental showpiece.
The last time the Philippines played in the gold medal game was in the 1990 edition of the Asian Games. There, a pro-laden squad coached by Robert Jaworski settled for a bridesmaid finish after a 90-76 loss to the Chinese.
Ange Kouame struggled for most of the game, but made up for his miscues with some big plays that paved the way for Brownlee’s heroics.
Kevin Alas was just as key down the stretch, hitting a tough triple and then an even tougher layup halfway through the final period that kept China within striking distance.
Philippines 77 – Brownlee 33, Thompson 13, Fajardo 8, Perez 8, Alas 5, Newsome 4, Oftana 4, Kouame 2, Ross 0, Lassiter 0, Aguilar 0.
China 76 – Zhao R. 18, Hu M. 10, Zhu 10, Wang 10, Zhao J. 9, Hu J. 8, Du 6, Zhang 4, Cui 1, Cheng 0.
Quarters: 17-19, 30-48, 50-62, 77-76.