Third quarter surge powers Gilas Pilipinas past Hong Kong at start of FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers
Published on February 23, 2024

HONG KONG – There was no need for heart-stopping heroics from Justin Brownlee, just a smooth all-around game that helped clear the path for Gilas Pilipinas in the second half of its FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers game against the home team Thursday, Feb. 22, at the Tsuen Wan Stadium.

With 16 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals, Brownlee, the savior for the Philippines during the Hangzhou Asian Games last year, especially against China in the semifinals, towed the national team past Hong Kong 94-64 after Gilas spent nearly two quarters trying to figure out the host squad, which narrowly trailed 41-37 at the half.

The answer came to the Nationals in the third quarter as Kai Sotto and Dwight Ramos got into the picture, helping Gilas, along with Scottie Thompson and Jamie Malonzo, put together a decisive 30-9 run that took the fight out of Hong Kong, which entered the first game of the three-window qualifiers as the decided underdog but greeted the reigning Asian Games champion with a menacing growl all throughout the first 20 minutes.

Sotto added 13 points, 15 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal behind rookie Kevin Quiambao’s 15 points and ahead of Jamie Malonzo’s 11.

Though never expected to give the Philippines serious trouble, Hong Kong nonetheless provided the necessary workout as Gilas prepares for dangerous Chinese-Taipei on Sunday, Feb. 25, at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.

No other Gilas player was in double figures, with Dwight Ramos adding 9, Chris Newsome 7, late addition Japeth Aguilar 6, Thompson 5, CJ Perez 5, Calvin Oftana 5 and Carl Tamayo 2.

Sui Hung Yeung led Hong Kong with 13 points while Oliver Xu and Canadian-born Duncan Reid each had 11. The host outscored Gilas 22-18 in the second quarter to keep the game close before committing the bulk of its turnovers in the third quarter, saw the air choked out of its offense and get hammered under the boards in giving up a 56-32 rebounds deficit.

The Philippines takes on Chinese Taipei at 7:30 pm on Sunday, February 25, at the PhilSports Arena, looking for headway as it embarks on a four-year program aimed at making it back to the World Cup and the Olympic Games.

Gilas coach Tim Cone acknowledged that there may be need for some improvement, heading for the second game of the window.

“It’s obvious to anybody that we have a long way to go. We hear that Taiwan gave New Zealand a real battle today so they’re gonna be a team to be reckoned with come Sunday. We gotta need to play a lot, lot better,” Cone said.

New Zealand brushed off Chinese-Taipei 89-69 to join Australia, Japan, China, Thailand and the Philippines as Day 1 winners.

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al S. Panlilio lauded Gilas’ performance.

“I am excited about this team although this is just the first step in our plans for the next 4 years,” said Panlilio, who just recently named Cone as permanent national coach for a four-year cycle. “This is a start of this latest version of Gilas Pilipinas. We want to build chemistry and continuity as what Tim would always say.”