Gilas Pilipinas upsets China to face Jordan in Asian Games Finals

MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas came from behind to shock China, 77-76 and set up an Asian Games basketball finals duel against previous tormentor, Jordan on Wednesday, October 4 in Hangzhou, China.

Gilas Pilipinas upsets China to face Jordan in Asian Games Finals
Justin Brownlee brought the “never say die” mantra to the Asian Games to stun the host team, China and earned the Philippines the last ticket to the finals vs. Jordan. Photo Credit: Philippine Olympic Committee

Facing the host country is always not an easy task for any team. Aside from the top-caliber-player-opponents, the sixth-man or the home crowd is always a tough rival to beat.

After winning over China a month ago at the FIBA World Cup, Gilas Pilipinas cagers found themselves the complete underdog in the semis against the home team. The Chinese wasted no time and took a big lead early in the opener.

The Philippines struggled offensively that even Justin Brownlee couldn’t get an opening to help his team get close with China.

The nationals toughen their defense up mid of the first period and made it harder for the Chinese to score. However, the Filipinos couldn’t convert a basket as well.

Gilas Pilipinas finally got a much needed break at the 2-minute mark spearheaded by June Mar Fajardo and Scottie Thompson to close the gap.

Despite the slow start, Philippines recovered and still managed to control China late in the opening quarter for a 19-17 disadvantage.

China’s offensive surge erupted anew as the 2nd quarter unfolded. As Fajardo took a breather on the bench, Wang Zi Lin lorded underneath the basket to ramp up the margin to double-figure.

The rim appeared to shrink for the Filipinos, as none of their shots found their mark, while the Chinese continued to sink baskets, even making challenging, trick-like shot attempts with remarkable consistency.

Basketball experts could agree that China has done its assignment in scouting Brownlee as the naturalized Filipino could barely touch the ball and rarely make a shot.

Gilas Pilipinas had a mountain to climb after halftime as China sealed the second quarter with a 48-30 advantage.

Nothing changed in the third quarter as Gilas was still down by more than 20 points with plenty of time remaining.

A collective sigh of relief washed over the Philippines as Brownlee began to hit his stride in the middle of the penultimate quarter. Nevertheless, the sharp three-point shooting of China remained a persistent concern for the Philippine team.

As Brownlee heated up from the outside, Philippines’ defense intensified as well to cut the once humongous margin to just 10.

Compared to the second quarter, the Filipinos did pretty well in the third. Brownlee’s scoring momentum helped the team downsize the lead, 62-50 entering the final chapter.

With a high sense of urgency, the Philippines started the fourth canto with three straight triples coming from Brownlee to stay behind China and increase its odds of winning.

The Filipinos’ morale was all-time high after seeing themselves just down by a couple of shots with over 5 minutes left on the game clock.
Just as Gilas Pilipinas was so close to a comeback, with the help of the crowd, China was able to regain its composure and brought the two-digit lead once again.

The jam packed arena echoed with boos everytime the Filipinos touched the ball. The Chinese crowd got into the nerves of the nationals especially at the foul line where they missed a bunch of opportunities due to the deafening noise.

Despite the pressure, Ginebra resident import Brownlee remained composed and unleashed a couple of treys to finally take the lead for the first time in the game and with 23 ticks left on the clock.

China had the chance to win the game but missed the last shot. The Philippines got the rebound and melted the clock away for the 77-76 victory against the host team.

With the win, the Philippines has arranged a finals duel with Jordan, which gave the Filipinos their lone defeat in the Asian Games.

The Philippines vs. Jordan's finals matchup will be on Friday, October 6 at 8PM.

— Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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