Determined Gilas Pilipinas sets off to reclaim Asian basketball supremacy

MANILA, Philippines – The Asian Games men’s basketball finals has been set - the Philippines versus Jordan, Justin Brownlee against Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

Gilas Pilipinas will bank on hot-shooting Justin Brownlee against Jordan
Gilas Pilipinas will bank on hot-shooting Justin Brownlee against Jordan in the Asian Games basketball finals. Photo Credit: Philippine Olympic Committee (POC)

When was the last time that the Philippines had a gold medal finish in the Asian Games men’s basketball event?

Clue: the PBA wasn’t even a concept yet.

It was actually in 1962 during the Jakarta, Indonesia Asian Games, the heyday of Philippine basketball legend Caloy Loyzaga.

61 years to be exact, that long since the country last tasted a gold medal in Asian basketball.

Prior to the last Asiad gold, the Philippines used to be the kings of basketball in the continent with 4 golds in total, a silver, and 2 bronze finishes.

The country’s lone silver and the last time we’ve been in the Asian basketball finals was in 1990, during the Beijing Asian Games where Robert Jaworski Sr.-led RP Team got clobbered by China and settled for second place.

On Friday, October 6, after six decades, the Philippines will once again be on the most prestigious basketball stage in Asia, against the unheralded Team Jordan.

Thanks to the Philippines’ naturalized cager, Justin “Super Noypi” Brownlee who has saved Gilas Pilipinas not just once but twice in the Asiad, against powerhouses Iran and China.

Tomorrow, the Philippine men’s basketball team will have the chance to rewrite and revise history. Rewrite as the nationals will be in the Asian Games basketball championship anew and revise as the Filipino ballers will aim for the nation’s 5th gold in the said event.

But it won’t be a walk in the park as the Philippines faces a whole lot better Jordanian team compared to the previous continental meets where the latter was merely a pushover.

Jordan’s naturalized player and NBA veteran Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is truly the team’s x-factor in this tournament.

Hollis-Jefferson, despite being an adversary this time, is also dear to Filipino basketball fans as the former Nets steered TNT Tropang Giga to a title and won a best import plum for himself. Those credentials alone, speak a lot about his immaculate credentials.

Despite Hollis-Jefferson’s incredible résumé, you can’t take Brownlee out of the equation as the Ginebra resident import has done a whole lot more and Pinoy junkies would all agree that he has a better basketball profile; 6 PBA titles and 3 best import awards - you could do the math.

Without a doubt, Brownlee is the better reinforcement between the two. However, it’s still worrisome that Hollis-Jefferson tormented Gilas Pilipinas in the eliminations. Not only sending the Philippines crashing down but humiliating the nationals with 25-big-points.

Aside from a victory over the Filipinos, the Jordanians also cruise past Chinese Taipei in the semis by 19 markers which is enough to intimidate Philippines in the finals duel.

But make no mistake, the Philippines, although passing the quarterfinals and semifinals both by just a half-shot, was still remarkable as both Iran and China are considered as Asia’s basketball giants.

Gilas Pilipinas has the uncanny ability to impose a big lead to any opponent as well as the capability to comeback from a huge disadvantage just like what the boys did to the Chinese in semis; down by 9 in 2 minutes and still won in a gallant and fair fashion.

Defending Hollis-Jefferson is actually not a problem, the team has limited him in their first encounter, it was the rest of the team that caused Philippines’ downfall in that match.

There are just two things that Gilas Pilipinas must do to win against Jordan.

First is to limit the turnovers. In the quarterfinals, Philippines had over 20-point lead against Iran but turn-over-after-turn-over almost cost Gilas the game. Fortunately, Brownlee and Fajardo maintained their composure to seal a razor-thin win.

Second is the three point shooting. This is really the key in winning international games. During the FIBA Cup in Manila, Gilas torched China with multiple triples. In contrast, China almost ousted the Philippines in the Asiad semis as the Filipinos couldn’t connect from the outside. It’s just in the fourth where the boys started to heat up from the rainbow territory.

The Filipinos have the momentum advantage after beating a home team, and they're psychologically prepared for whatever comes their way. They've defeated basketball giants, and Jordan doesn't pose the same level of challenge, at least, just yet.

The home crowd could be a threat to the Philippines, given that the Chinese fans may not support the team that ousted their own. However, the Filipinos have a history of winning despite facing hostile crowds.

Our prediction, there’s no doubt that Gilas Pilipinas will cop the Philippines' 5th Asian Games basketball gold.

— Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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