HANGZHOU, China — Justin Brownlee shattered China’s heart to a million pieces as he delivered the telling blows to power Gilas Pilipinas to a miraculous 77-76 win over China in the semifinals of the men’s basketball event of the 19th Asian Games on Tuesday.
Brownlee silenced the massive Chinese crowd inside the HOC Gymnasium as he knocked down back-to-back three-pointers in the crucial stretch to seal the victory and lift the Filipinos to their first Asian Games finals appearance since 1990.
After scoring just six in the first half, the 35-year-old Brownlee finished with 33 points, five rebounds and four assists while Scottie Thompson added 13 markers to pull off the pulsating come-from-behind win that sent Chinese fans to tears.
This is the second straight time that the Filipinos have frustrated China.
During the preliminaries of the World Cup last month, Jordan Clarkson and Gilas Pilipinas pulled off a 96-75 win against the same Chinese squad powered by National Basketball Association players Kyle Anderson and Zhou Qi.
The setback, which is China’s first against an Asian country in a major international tournament, angered Chinese fans, prompting head coach Sasa Djordjevic of Serbia to issue an apology.
“I’m just shocked that I’m here talking to you,” Gilas coach Tim Cone said, admitting that he already lost hope of mounting a comeback after falling behind by 18 points at halftime, 30-48, but Brownlee and other Filipinos kept fighting until they cut the deficit to single digit in the first three minutes of the fourth period, 55-64.
But the biggest moment came in the final two minutes when Brownlee knocked down a pair of three-pointers to turn a 71-76 deficit into a 77-76 lead with only 23.3 seconds left.
Then, the Filipinos threw out their iron curtain on defense to secure the victory.
“I was talking to him (Brownlee) as we were walking over. I told him that you’ve been doing this for Ginebra, that’s awesome. But you do this in front of the international stage, in a big moment like this, to beat the host team, that is unforgettable. People will remember that forever.”
“Those last two shots that he made were impossible. Guys were like in his face, jumping right at him. He was fading away and I thought that no way it would go in. And it went ‘boom, boom.’ I was like: Wow, we have a shot.”
With the win, Gilas will face Jordan in the gold medal in which Brownlee will be pitted against an old foe in the Philippine Basketball Association – Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
The gold medal match is set on Friday with Gilas Pilipinas hoping to win their first title since the Jakarta edition of the Asian Games in 1962.
Cone believes that winning the gold is far from easy.
But with their miraculous win over the host country with something to prove, in front of a hostile crowd, anything is possible.