Justin Brownlee bucked a slow start and turned on the heat when needed as he practically lifted Gilas Pilipinas to a tense 77-76 come-from-behind triumph over host China in the Asian Games men’s basketball tournament at the ZJU Gymnasium Wednesday night.
Scoring only six points in the first half, the six-time Philippine Basketball Association champion brought his never-say-die spirit and caught fire in the second half, including a sizzling 5-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc in the fourth period.
His go-ahead basket in the closing seconds of the match completed Gilas’ comeback and a big stop at the other end sealed the win eventually for the Filipinos, who will be marching to the gold medal match for the first time since the 1990 Games in Beijing.
The Philippines faces Jordan for the gold medal where Brownlee and the rest of the Filipinos meet a familiar foe — Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
It will be a match made in heaven as the two imports who figured in last season’s Governors’ Cup will have a rematch, this time with a gold medal at stake.
In the Asian Games, Hollis-Jefferson and his Jordanian squad were able to give the Filipinos their only lost in the tournament, 87-62, a few days ago.
Jordan is guaranteed of a medal since starting taking part in the Asiad in 1986 while the Philippines is looking to end more than six-decade drought of not winning the gold medal.
The last time the Philippines won the gold was in 1962 when the squad was still bannered by the late great Caloy Loyzaga.
For Gilas Pilipinas coach Tim Cone, it’s a fitting way to redeem himself.
Twenty five years ago, he coached the last Philippine team that won a medal in the quadrennial meet’s basketball tournament, leading the Centennial Team to a bronze medal finish.
He had already surpassed his previous feat and now has a chance to rewrite history when he and the rest of Gilas team go for the gold medal.