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MANILA, Philippines – In a heart-stopper for the ages, Gilas Pilipinas clinched its first Asian Games semifinal berth in 21 years after arresting a massive Iran comeback, 84-83, at the Zhejiang University Zijingang Gymnasium in China, on Tuesday, October 3.
Justin Brownlee, after a planned 8-minute outing against Qatar, made the most of his rest time and exploded for 36 points, 16 coming in the first quarter and 15 in the third, built off 5-of-7 three-pointers, to go with 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
Leading by as many as 21 points in the third quarter, 62-41, and by 17 at the start of the fourth, 71-54, Gilas suffered a blindsiding 22-7 comeback by Iran, which cut the deficit to a single possession, 78-76, off a Mohammadsina Vahedi layup at the 3:35 mark.
Vahedi, on an otherworldly zone, followed up with a three in the last two minutes, before somehow pushing Iran ahead, 81-80, off free throws at the 1:33 mark.
Veterans Fajardo and Brownlee, however, stayed composed enough to chip in two clutch layups in the last minute of regulation, 84-83, as Iran inexplicably then let Gilas’ Chris Newsome run out the clock off its final foul to give.
Fajardo finished with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, 8 rebounds and 4 assists, as fellow PBA MVP Scottie Thompson added 11 points, 6 boards, and 2 dimes in the nail-biting finish.
Gilas now faces familiar foe China in the semifinals for a shot at a medal at 8 pm on Wednesday, October 4.
China drubbed South Korea, 84-70, in their own quarterfinal match.
Philippines 84 – Brownlee 36, Fajardo 18, Thompson 11, Oftana 7, Perez 6, Kouame 4, Newsome 2, Alas 0, Tolentino 0, Aguilar 0.
Iran 83 – Vahedi 24, Rezaeifar 14, Mirzaeitalarposhti 12, Aghajanpour 11, Girgoorian 8, Mashayekhi 6, Kazemi 6, Pazirofteh 2, Shahrian Nasl 0, Gholizadeh Tousarani 0, Torabi 0.
Quarters: 28-22, 48-36, 71-54, 84-83.