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Gilas end 61-year title drought

GILAS Pilipinas flashes the gold medal which validates the country’s long-held belief that the Philippines is indeed the basketball boss in the region. | Photograph COURTESY OF POC-PSC Media Group

HANGZHOU, China — For a team that prepared for only 12 days with no definite roster until the eve of the tournament, advancing to the medal round is already an achievement.

But Gilas Pilipinas did more than that as it pulled off a 70-60 victory over Jordan to end a six-decade title drought in the men’s basketball competition of the 19th Asian Games late Friday at the Hangzhou Olympic Center here.

Naturalized player Justin Bronwlee delivered offensively while Chris Newsome employed an airtight defense on the prolific Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to underscore the Filipinos’ dominance on both ends and claim the crown they last won in 1962 in Jakarta.

Gilas coach Tim Cone, who got a last-minute mission of assembling the squad following the resignation of head coach Chot Reyes in the wake of a forgettable FIBA Basketball World Cup appearance, couldn’t help but get emotional setting a personal milestone of winning the gold medal since grabbing the bronze in the Bangkok edition of the Games in Bangkok.

Cone said the morale of the squad is sky-high following their miraculous 77-76 victory over host China in the semifinals while catching the Jordanians on a bad shooting night.

“We caught Jordan on a bad shooting night and we were kinda hoping that they would shoot the ball so well. I thought we did a good job in covering Rondae and not let him get too many looks. Our guys were really ready for tonight,” said Cone, who is no stranger to preparing a defensive game plan against Hollis-Jefferson after coaching against him numerous times in the Philippine Basketball Association.

“Hollis-Jefferson is just an amazing player – he’s an amazing player. The way he defends, the way he matches up with Justin, we don’t have anybody like him.”

“It’s just a good game for us tonight. They had an off shooting night.”

Brownlee fired 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists while Newsome limited Hollis-Jefferson to only three points on an ugly 1-of-9 shooting from the field in the first period to throw him out of his comfort zone.

Newsome finished with 13 markers to back the production of Brownlee and Ange Kouame, who had 14 points, 11 rebounds, five steals, and two blocks for the Filipinos, who limited the Jordanians to only 10 points in the third period.

Hollis-Jefferson finished with 24 points but he struggled from the field as he shot only 8-of-29 while pulling down 12 rebounds and five assists.

Cone said the 61-year wait for the most important gold medal for Team Philippines — their fourth in this edition of the Asiad — is truly worth it.

“Yeah, 60 years of no gold,” said Cone, who was barely five years old when the group of Kurt Bachmann, Caloy Loyzaga, Rhoel Nadurata and Ed Ocampo won the men’s gold medal for the Philippines.

“I know (winning the title) is no goal for Jordan. For Jordan, it would have been their first. So it’s good for both of us.”

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