Gilas Pilipinas books Asian Games semis after nail-biting thriller vs. Iran

MANILA, Philippines – With less than a day of preparation, Gilas Pilipinas still managed to handle the gutsy Iranians and book a semifinals slot in the Asian Games on Tuesday, October 3, in Hangzhou China.

Justin Brownlee dropped 36 points to survive Iran’s 4th quarter scoring onslaught
Justin Brownlee dropped 36 points to survive Iran’s 4th quarter scoring onslaught and reserved the Philippines a semis slot. Photo Credit: Philippine Olympic Committee (POC)

Fresh from their resounding victory against Qatar, Gilas Pilipinas maintained their scoring intensity as they squared off against a Team Iran now without Hamed Haddadi in the quarterfinals.

In the opener, Team Philippines relied heavily on Justin Brownlee, as the naturalized Filipino sensation sank an incredible three consecutive triples, propelling his team to a sudden and commanding lead.

Iran tried to fight back and made a few baskets of their own to extinguish the Philippines' scoring surge with plenty of time left in the opening quarter.

Brownlee appeared in a state of total flow and was virtually unstoppable from beyond the arc, racking up an impressive four triples in the opening period. His remarkable performance provided the Philippines with a 28-22 advantage.

It didn’t take that long for the Iranians to recover. The middle eastern players just needed the quarter break to narrow the gap and stay close with the Filipinos.

As expected, a shootout between the two squads finally happened in the second quarter. The players from both sides gave the fans a thrilling game as they traded baskets from both the perimeter and the rainbow country.

With Brownlee briefly resting in the second quarter, the reins were handed over to CJ Perez, who assumed the role of the go-to scorer for Gilas. Meanwhile, Scottie Thompson stepped up to shoulder the three-point scoring duties, ensuring that the team's offensive momentum remained strong.

Aside from great ball distribution and balanced scoring, Gilas’ defense was extraordinary which resulted in a double-digit, 48-36 lead entering the halftime.

Good halftime break for Gilas as the team had the chance to regroup and prepare for any comeback attempt by Iran.

The Philippines maintained a decent lead in the third quarter led by June Mar Fajardo who dominated every Iranian big man underneath the basket including a monstrous and highly-contested dunk.

Frustration surrounded the Iranian camp as its defense started to collapse that paved a way for the Philippines to post its first ever 20-point lead of the game.

Just as the Iranians thought the Brownlee-frenzy was over; they were completely wrong as the Ginebra resident import continued to pour it from all the angles of the floor to prolong their agony.

Gilas experienced a brief hiccup during the latter part of the penultimate quarter. Nevertheless, the national team managed to maintain a solid 71-54 lead.

Iran started the fourth and final period with an 8-0 scoring blitz that prompted Coach Tim Cone to call an unwanted ceasefire to control the collateral damage.

From as high as 21 points down to just 5. The tides turned drastically in favor of the Iranians with over 7 minutes left on the game clock. Coach Cone had no other choice but to call another halt to talk things over from the bench.

The Iranians were oozing with confidence especially from the three point lane led by Mohammadsina Vahedi. Shocked just like the fans were, Gilas Pilipinas found itself ahead just by a shot under three minutes of the fourth.

The Philippines lost the lead momentarily in the last minute. Good thing that Brownlee took over and the team regained the advantage and sealed the deal, 84-83.

Gilas will face China in the semifinals for a shot at a medal at 8 pm on Wednesday, October 4.

China defeated South Korea, 84-70, in their quarterfinal match on Tuesday.

The Scores

Philippines 84 – Brownlee 36, Fajardo 18, Thompson 11, Oftana 7, Perez 6, Kouame 4, Newsome 2, Alas 0, Tolentino 0, Aguilar 0.

Iran 83 – Vahedi 24, Rezaeifar 14, Mirzaeitalarposhti 12, Aghajanpour 11, Girgoorian 8, Mashayekhi 6, Kazemi 6, Pazirofteh 2, Shahrian Nasl 0, Gholizadeh Tousarani 0, Torabi 0.

Quarters: 28-22, 48-36, 71-54, 84-83.

— Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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