Paris Dream Ends but Future Remains Bright for Gilas
Published on July 7, 2024

Still with heads held high, Gilas Pilipinas ends its pursuit of an Olympic spot after a 71-60 loss to Brazil in Riga, Latvia.

Justin Brownlee again led the attack for the Philippines but he was a marked man from the start. He finished with 15 points but had his worst shooting performance of the tournament on 5 of 16 shooting.

“We didn’t expect to be here but when we got here, we expected to win,” said head coach Tim Cone.

“There’s a reason Brazil is the 12th ranked team in the world and they proved it tonight. We started off strong but we could not sustain it because of their physicality.”

Gilas came into the match ready to give it their best shot. After a strong start from Brazil, the squad of coach Tim Cone responded with an 8-0 run that saw them lead by as many as 12 points in the opening quarter.

Brazil won the second period 15-11 but it was really in the third where the game turned completely towards the South Americans. They turned a 33-27 halftime deficit to a 41-33 lead halfway through the period.

Gilas finally broke their dry spell at the 3:58 mark courtesy of June Mar Fajardo but momentum was already on the side of the Brazilians at that point.

Only Fajardo and CJ Perez scored in the third for Gilas, losing it 24-6, and heading into the final period down 51-39.

Gilas fought as hard as they could as they brought the deficit down to seven points a couple of times in the fourth but Brazil always had a counter to keep the Philippines at bay.

Bruno Caboclo led them with 15 points while Marcelinho Huertas added 13.

Dwight Ramos was the second leading scorer for the Philippines with 13 but Brazil’s defense did a great job of shutting him down after a hot start. Fajardo and Perez added 10 apiece.

Gilas had to play a much different rotation from their usual with the absence of Kai Sotto who suffered a bruised rib in their game against Georgia. Japeth Aguilar did his best to step into the starting role but this also limited the second-unit firepower of the Philippines with Brazil winning in bench points, 23-13.

“Losing Kai was big for us as it took away our depth and forced June Mar to play too many minutes,” Cone explained. “

Still it was a great run for Gilas as they showed they can compete in the world stage.

With AJ Edu and Scottie Thompson coming back from their injuries and with the players learning more and more about Cone’s system after every tournament, the Road to Paris has come to an end but the future remains bright for Gilas Pilipinas.

“The whole point of bringing this program together is that we’re going to hopefully keep these guys together for the next three or four years heading into the next World Cup,” Cone closed. “Now we know we can compete. Next is to get a little bit better and not just compete but win.”