Justin Brownlee saved Gilas Pilipinas from a fourth-quarter disaster caused by Iran, 84-83, to reach the 19th Asian Games men’s basketball semifinals, Tuesday at the Zhejiang University Zijingang Gymnasium in China.
The do-it-all forward finished with a game-high 36 points, none more important than his floater off a baseline drive with 44 seconds left to play.
That gave his side the lead after squandering a 21-point third-quarter advantage.
Brownlee and Co. would eventually breathe a huge sigh of relief as they got the job done – and ended a decades-long drought in the process.
The Philippines will be marching on to the Asiad semis for the first time in 21 years, or since the 2002 edition in Busan, South Korea.
It is still remembered as a heartbreaker for the Filipinos as they lost to the host nation in the semis, 69-68, no thanks to a last-second Lee Sang-min triple. SoKor eventually won the gold, while the RP Team settled for fourth place.
Now, this present-day Nationals can atone for what happened then, but will have to go through the Chinese on Wednesday at 8:00 PM in a rematch of their FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Second Round encounter.
June Mar Fajardo backstopped Brownlee with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Scottie Thompson chipped in 11 points in the triumph.
Thompson scored all of his points in the first half as he backed up his long-time Barangay Ginebra teammate in establishing control of the match.
Brownlee already had 19 points in the game’s first 20 minutes, 16 of which he made in the opening period alone. He also nailed four of Gilas’ five triples as he came in fresher after playing just eight minutes against Qatar on Monday.
He already had 34 by the third quarter, where they managed to inflate their lead to its highest at 64-43 with under five minutes remaining.
But what appeared to be a smooth cruise to the win turned otherwise when the Iranians came roaring back in the fourth quarter behind Sina Vahedi.
The 22-year-old guard helped orchestrate the massive comeback, and his five straight points put them ahead, 81-80, with 1:32 to go.
Both squads figured into a tough exchange afterwards, and the West Asian unit appeared to be on pace to complete the rally when Navid Rezaeifar gave them the 83-82 lead approaching the game’s final minute.
However, Brownlee provided the much-needed stability for Gilas, and things turned from bad to worse for Iran from there.
Matin Aghajanpour missed an open three-pointer with 24.2 seconds left, and Calvin Oftana was there to collar the rebound. Iran would never have another chance as the Philippines wisely milked the clock to seal the W.
Vahedi led Iran with 24 points in the heartbreaking defeat, which relegated the team to the classification phase 5th-8th beginning against South Korea. The Koreans bowed to China, 84-70, in the other quarterfinal bracket.
Rezaeifar supplied 14 points, while Meisam Mirzaei and Aghajanpour added 12 and 11 points, respectively, for Team Melli, who won’t be going home with a medal after silver finishes in the last two Asian Games.
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, Mirzaei 12, Aghajanpour 11, Girgoorian 8, Mashayekhi 6, Kazemi 6, Pazirofteh 2, Shahrian 0, Gholizadeh 0, Torabi 0.
Quarterscores: 28-22, 48-36, 71-54, 84-83.