Asian Games

Asian Games king: Gilas Pilipinas gets back at Jordan to claim gold after 6-decade drought

Delfin Dioquino

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Asian Games king: Gilas Pilipinas gets back at Jordan to claim gold after 6-decade drought

CROWNED. Gilas Pilipinas celebrates during the medal ceremony in the 19th Asian Games.

Marko Djurica/REUTERS

Gilas Pilipinas captures its first gold medal in the Asian Games since 1962 after claiming a payback win over Jordan in the final

MANILA, Philippines – It took a six-decade wait, but Gilas Pilipinas is back at the zenith of the Asian Games at last. 

The Philippines captured its first gold medal in men’s 5-on-5 basketball since 1962 after claiming a 70-60 payback win over Jordan in the final at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Gymnasium in China on Friday, October 6.

Justin Brownlee finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals as the Nationals replicated the feat last accomplished by the team spearheaded by FIBA Hall of Fame inductee Carlos “Caloy” Loyzaga.

Chris Newsome and Ange Kouame could not have picked a better time to turn in their finest performances, backstopping Brownlee in the win that avenged the Philippines’ 25-point loss to Jordan back in the group stage.

Kouame churned out 14 points, 11 rebounds, 5 steals, and 2 blocks, while Newsome chimed in 13 points and helped contain Jordan star Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to a dismal shooting display.

Hollis-Jefferson still delivered 24 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists, but he shot a paltry 8-of-29 clip from the field as the Falcons ran out of gas in their gold-medal bid after reaching the final unbeaten in five games.

The victory also allowed the Philippines to match its four-gold haul in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Scottie Thompson contributed 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists, including a pair of crucial plays midway through the fourth quarter that kept Jordan at bay.

The reigning PBA MVP, Thompson saved the ball from going out of bounds and assisted Kouame for a short stab then scored on a layup off his own miss in the ensuing possession to give the Philippines a 60-50 lead.

Jordan keyed on Brownlee defensively in the fourth quarter, perhaps wary of another late explosion after the beloved Barangay Ginebra import fired 17 of his 33 points in the last frame of their 77-76 semifinal win over China.

But even with Brownlee limited, Kouame rose to the occasion by scattering 8 points in the final six minutes.

Newsome, meanwhile, tied Brownlee with 5 points each in the third quarter as the Filipinos outscored the Jordanians in the period, 20-10, to build a commanding 70-60 advantage.

Decades of agony

Generations of heartbreaks came after Loyzaga and the Nationals completed an Asian Games four-peat as they ruled the first four editions in 1951, 1954, 1958, and 1962.

The Philippines failed to reach the final in the next six editions before a squad bannered by legends Alvin Patrimonio, Ramon Fernandez, and Allan Caidic broke through in 1990, although it bowed to China and fell short of the gold.

In 1998, the Philippine Centennial Team mentored by current head coach Tim Cone succumbed to China in the semifinal and settled for bronze with a win over Kazakhstan.

The Asian Games in 2002 proved to be more painful.

On the brink of advancing to the final, the Philippines bungled its chance after Olsen Racela missed two pressure-packed free throws and witnessed host South Korea advance on a Lee Sang-min three-pointer at the buzzer.

The last three editions then saw the Filipinos finish sixth in 2010, seventh in 2014, and fifth in 2018, when Utah Jazz star Jordan Clarkson debuted for the national team.

Road to redemption

Ending that decades-long search for gold – let alone a medal – looked bleak as the Nationals faced a litany of problems in the lead-up to this year’s Asian Games.

Half of the 12-man lineup that represented the country in the FIBA World Cup in September returned to their teams in overseas league, while Chot Reyes stepped aside from his post as head coach after a near two-year run.

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas gave the coaching job to Cone, who took on the task of forming a hastily assembled crew just two weeks before the Asian Games.

Misfortunes, though, did not end there as the Games’ organizing committee denied the inclusion of Calvin Abueva, Terrence Romeo, Mo Tautuaa, and Jason Perkins since they were not included in the list of pool players.

Roger Pogoy also withdrew from the team due to health issues.

This forced Cone to bring in CJ Perez, Kevin Alas, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross, and Arvin Tolentino on such short notice.

But those setbacks only fueled Gilas Pilipinas, which exorcised the ghost of its tormented past as it survived Iran to reach the semifinals for the first time since that infamous 2002 Korea collapse, then avenged its 1998 loss by giving China the boot.

Almost like a fairytale, the Filipinos climbed out of a 20-point hole and banked on Brownlee in the fourth quarter to dethrone eight-time champion China and set up a title clash with Jordan.

In the finale, the Philippines squandered a 13-point lead in the first half that resulted in a 31-31 deadlock at the break before it seized control of the last two quarters by holding Jordan to a horrendous 26% shooting.

Ahmad Al Dwairi, Sami Bzai, and John Bohannon, who all scored in double figures against the Filipinos in their first encounter, combined for just 17 points.

Still, Jordan made history as it clinched its first-ever medal in men’s 5-on-5 basketball.

China, meanwhile, bagged bronze following a 101-73 demolition of Chinese Taipei in the battle for third earlier on Friday.

The Scores

Philippines 70 – Brownlee 20, Kouame 14, Newsome 13, Thompson 11, Oftana 5, Aguilar 3, Perez 2, Alas 2, Fajardo 0.

Jordan 60 – Hollis-Jefferson 24, Ibrahim 13, Al Dwairi 8, Alhamarsheh 6, Bohannon 4, Bzai 3, Hussein 2, Alhendi 0, Kanaan 0.

Quarters: 17-12, 31-31, 51-41, 70-60.


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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.