BOCAUE — In a moment that was seven years in the making, Justin Brownlee made sure that it was worth it.
The newly-naturalized Filipino showed the way in Gilas Pilipinas’ 107-96 revenge win over Lebanon, Friday evening at the Philippine Arena here.
Brownlee, who was able to gain Filipino citizenship last January 12, produced 17 points, five assists, four rebounds, and two steals, making sure that the Philippines got back at the Cedars who defeated them 85-81 back on August 25.
Brownlee and the rest of Gilas compensated for their lack of size by putting on a blistering shooting display.
Brownlee’s back-to-back treys in the opening quarter ignited a three-point barrage that saw Gilas sink seven of their first 10 attempts from beyond the arc. Ray Parks caught fire in the second quarter, burying a pair of triples that helped establish a comfortable 36-19 lead for the Philippines.
“Obviously, we are very satisfied with our offense. We shot the ball well and we had 31 assists against 13 turnovers. It allowed us to shoot 17 three-pointers. However, there’s still a lot left to be desired on our defense,” Reyes said after the game.
While it is practically a no-bearing game as the two nations already qualified for the FIBA World Cup, Gilas Pilipinas aims to defend its home against Lebanon.
Lebanon did not even bring its big guns Wael Arakji, Jonathan Arledge, and Ater Majok for the window.
Still, Cedars head coach Jad El Hajj praised the Filipinos for playin team basketball compared to the last time out when Gilas had Jordan Clarkson in their lineup.
“Honestly, they played today as a team. They had more than 20 assists,” said El Hajj.
Gilas are now 9-5 in Group E while Lebanon dropped to 7-2. Both teams are assured of a slot in the World Cup this August.
Also spectacular in his seniors’ team debut was young Mason Amos. The 18-year-old showed that he belonged with the big boys, going a perfect 5-of-5 from the field for 13 points.
Jamie Malonzo tallied 15 points and five rebounds while Dwight Ramos produced a line of 10 points, four assists, and three rebounds.
Back in national team duty for the first time in over a year, Jordan Heading picked up where he left off for the Filipinos with 10 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Meanwhile, June Mar Fajardo, in his first Gilas game since 2019, got nine points and five rebounds.
For Lebanon, Amir Saoud led the way with 27 points, while Hayk Gyokchyan had 21 points. Sergio El Darwich produced 19 points with six assists, and Karim Zeinoun chipped in 14 points.
The Philippines’ final assignment in the Qualifiers is against Jordan on Monday at the same Bulacan venue. Lebanon, meanwhile, heads to New Zealand to take on the Tall Blacks on the same day.
Philippines 107 – Brownlee 17, Malonzo 15, Amos 13, Heading 10, Parks 10, Ramos 10, Fajardo 9, Perez 8, Ravena K. 8, Thompson 5, Ravena T. 2, Oftana 0.
Lebanon 96 – Saoud 27, Gyokchyan 21, El Darwich 19. Zeinoun 14, Khoueiry 6, Mansour 6, Hadidian 3, Salibi 0, Khalil 0. Mezher 0, Rabay 0.
Quarterscores: 25-19. 53-41, 82-64, 107-96.