Gilas Pilipinas fought valiantly in front of the home crowd, nearly completing an incredible 25-point comeback before eventually losing to Jordan, 91-90 in their final game of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan, Monday night.
Justin Brownlee finished with 41 points, the most points by a Filipino in FIBA-sanctioned events since 2019. He also had 12 rebounds and three assists in the game. Jaime Malonzo added 11 points, while Scottie Thompson finished with nine points, seven rebounds, and seven assists.
“Credit to our guys for not giving up. Twenty, 25-points down, and we still clawed back, and we gave ourselves a chance to win the ballgame,” said Gilas coach Chot Reyes. “Tonight we got tested, and despite the results, [I’m] still very pleased with the way we played, particularly in the second half.”
Down by just three points with less than two minutes left in the game, Gilas was able to force a stop, which resulted in a Brownlee jumper to cut the deficit down to just one. The Philippines once again got a crucial stop in the next play, with Jordan fumbling the ball out of bounds.
Brownlee missed a potential go-ahead basket but Thompson was in the right place, collecting the offensive rebound and getting fouled in the process. Unfortunately, Thompson missed both free throws, which gave Jordan one final possession. Gilas once again put up a gallant defensive stand, forcing a Jordan miss.
Dwight Ramos got the rebound and pushed the ball ahead to Ray Parks who had a clean look at the basket for the game-winner. The ball clanged off the iron at the buzzer, allowing Jordan to escape with the win.
“It was a super hard-fought battle for our team,” Malonzo said. “Anytime you come down, 20, 25 points like that and get that close to winning… super disappointing, super sad about it.”
Jordan started out the game on fire. They took a 41-16 lead early in the second quarter on the strength of their outside shooting. They hit 12 3-pointers on 50 percent shooting in the first half.
Gilas switched up their defense in the second half, going small with their lineup, which allowed them to stay in step with their defensive assignments. The adjustment paid off as Jordan only managed to hit three of their 20 shots from beyond the arc in the second half.
Brownlee led the comeback run. He outscored the entire Jordan squad 17-10 in the third quarter, cutting the once-imposing double-digit deficit to just six points heading into the fourth quarter. That set up the exciting finish to the game.
Gilas finished third in Group E with a 6-4 record. The Philippines and Japan have already qualified for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 as the host countries.
Jordan, which finished with a 6-4 record in Group E, qualified as well. The other Asian teams that will compete in the World Cup later this year are New Zealand and Lebanon from Group E, along with Australia, China, and Iran from Group F.