By ADRIAN STEWART CO
Justin Brownlee delivered a performance for the ages as Gilas Pilipinas pulled off a 77-76 stunner over host China in the 19th Asian Games men’s basketball semifinals at the HOC Gymnasium in Hangzhou, China on Wednesday night, October 4.
Down 32-53 early in the third quarter, Brownlee spearheaded Gilas Pilipinas’ fightback with two outside shots followed by inside conversions from Jaymar Perez and Earl Scottie Thompson to cut the deficit to 50-62.
Brownlee continued his rampage in the fourth quarter as he knocked in back-to-back triples to cut the deficit to 58-64, but China responded with free throws from Junlong Zhu and a triple from Zhao Rui to make it a 69-61 lead.
Gilas threatened anew to within 67-71 after a basket by Chris Newsome and five straight points from Kevin Alas, but China created separation anew at 76-67 via a triple from Runwang Du and a basket from Jinqiu Hu.
The Philippine team then went on with its finishing run as back-to-back inside hits from Perez and Brownlee cut it to 71-76 before Brownlee unloaded consecutive three-pointers to give Gilas the lead at 77-76 with 24 seconds left.
Brownlee finished the game with 33 points, including seven three-point conversions, while Earl Scottie Thompson added 13 markers for Gilas, which will face Jordan in the gold medal match on Friday night, October 6.
“It was quite a miraculous win by us,” Gilas Pilipinas interim coach Tim Cone said after the match.
“It did look that we did not have any chance whatsoever, but I am really proud of my players for continuing the battle,” he added.
Zhao Rui top-scored for China with 18 points, including four three-point conversions, to go with six rebounds, while Mingxuan Hu, Junlong Zhu and Wang Zhelin added 10 markers apiece.
Meanwhile, Filipino boxer Eumir Felix Marcial advanced to the finals of the men’s 71 to 80-kilogram category after a second-round stoppage win over Ahmad Ghousoon of Syria in the semifinals.
Marcial, who became the fourth Filipino athlete to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics with his semifinals win, will face Tanglatihan Tuohetaerbieke of China in the gold medal match.
PHILIPPINES 77 — Brownlee 33, Thompson 13, Fajardo 8, Perez 8, Alas 5, Oftana 4, Newsome 4, Kouame 2, Aguilar 0, Lassiter 0, Ross 0.
CHINA 76 — R. Zhao 18, Zhu 10, Wang 10, M. Hu 10, J. Zhao 9, H. Hu 8, Du 6, Zhang 4, Cui 1, Cheng 0.
Quarterscores: 17-19, 30-48, 50-62, 77-76./ASC, WDJ