Gilas Pilipinas stuns China, returns to Asian Games finals after 33 years

HANGZHOU, China – Justin Brownlee knocked down successive treys down the stretch to tow Gilas Pilipinas to a thrilling 77-76 victory over China in the 19th Asian Games men’s basketball semifinal at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center on October 4. This arranged a gold medal game with Jordan.

It was a stunning comeback by the nationals who trailed the host squad for most part of the game before their massive run in the payoff period.

Brownlee finished with 33 points, while Scottie Thompson added 13 against the Chinese squad.

After falling behind 15-6, the nationals mounted a 11-2 fight back capped by June Mar Fajardo’s midrange jumper to tie the scores 17-all with 17 seconds to go in the first quarter.

But Zhao Jiwei made two free throws off Chris Ross’ foul to push China ahead 19-17, going to the second period before the host team went on a 14-4 blitz that created a 36-21 gap in the second quarter.

A three-point play by Ross and a midrange jumper by Scottie Thompson forced China to readjust and take a 48-30 halftime advantage.

Following a floater by Hu Jinqiu, Justin Brownlee drilled a triple to keep the offense going for Gilas midway in the third canto. The nationals then traded shots with the Chinese to cut the deficit to 60-50.

The nationals picked up the pace in the pay off period, with Ange Koame sinking a basket and Brownlee knocking down a couple of treys.

Kevin Alas’ triple in the last 5:39 brought Gilas closer, 69-65, but back-to-back buckets by Du Runwang and Hu Jinqiu kept China ahead. Brownlee knocked down successive treys pushed Gilas ahead, 77-76, with 24 seconds to go.

Prior their match, the Philippines escaped a searing comeback by Iran to hack out a 84-83 thriller victory last Tuesday.

Gilas defeated China, 96-75, in their previous face off in the classification round of the recent FIBA World Cup.

Behind a blistering start, Gilas was on track to deal Iran a bad beating and led, 64-43, with 4:26 left in the third quarter before settling for a 71-54 advantage at the end of the quarter.

Iran, however, stormed back in the fourth quarter and even took the lead, 83-82, with 1:02 remaining.

Justin Brownlee, though, converted a floater with 44 seconds left to put Gilas back up.

Matin Aghajanpour tried to give Iran the lead again, but he missed a three-pointer and the team let Gilas milk the remaining 22 seconds of the game.

Losing the 21-point lead was not exactly a shocker, Gilas Pilipinas coach Tim Cone said.

“In the international game, things can turn on a dime, and this did in the fourth quarter,” he said. “Luckily we had a big lead. We should have never put ourselves in that position, but that’s the way these kinds of games are.”

Brownlee led Gilas with 36 points but was held to the game-winning basket in the fourth quarter by a box-and-one defense thrown by the Iranians that stifled his movement through most of the second half.

“I think we did a good job in the first three quarters. But when they threw a wrench into our plans with that box-and-one, we just kinda struggled,” said Cone. “I think the Iranian coach did a great job bringing his team back.”

Brownlee also gabbed eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals to lead Gilas, which will battle host team China, an 84-70 winner against South Korea in another quarterfinal, in the semifinals on Wednesday night.

June Mar Fajardo added 18 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and one steal for Gilas.

Mohammadsina Vahedi led Iran with 24 points, one rebound, and one assist.  (Jeanne Michael Penaranda)