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2024 Summer Olympics

Gilas’ surprise semis run postpones departure plans

It was improbable for Gilas Pilipinas Men to win a game, let alone advance to the final four of the 2024 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament-Riga.

Slotted against world No. 6 Latvia and No. 23 Georgia, it seemed like a ‘mission impossible’ for the Philippines to surpass these European powerhouses.

In fact, Gilas head coach Tim Cone revealed that their tickets back to Manila were already booked for Friday.

“We already had our ticket reservations to leave tomorrow. I guess we have to push them back a bit,” joked Cone.

That’s how surprised we are to still be here. It’s the first time I’ve felt good about losing.”

Following a stunning 89-80 victory over Latvia and a narrow 90-92 loss to Georgia – well below the margin needed for Georgia to advance – the Nationals find themselves with another day in Riga.

2024-FIBA-OQT-Gilas-vs-Georgia-Tim-Cone Gilas' surprise semis run postpones departure plans 2024 Summer Olympics Basketball Gilas Pilipinas News  - philippine sports news


“We feel great. Like coach said, it’s not like we expected to beat anybody. But we battled hard, fought hard. We are excited to be here, for sure!” said Justin Brownlee, Gilas’ main man who is averaging 27.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 8.5 assists per game in the tournament.

“A lot of credit to Coach Tim for making some great adjustments in the game. Overall, just excited to be in the semis and happy.”

It has truly been a magical run for Gilas so far in Riga.

Against Latvia, Gilas jumped to an 8-0 lead and maintained control in a shocking wire-to-wire victory.

Conversely, the Filipinos looked doomed against the Crusaders, falling behind 16-0 early and trailing by as much as 20 points.

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But unlike past iterations of Gilas teams, this group never panicked. Instead, bit by bit, they reduced the deficit to eliminate the Georgians.

Aware of the potential for complacency after proving themselves against top-tier teams, Gilas must stay focused. With expectations weighing heavily on their shoulders, Cone recognizes this as a dangerous combination.

2024-FIBA-OQT-Gilas-vs-Georgia-Fans-2 Gilas' surprise semis run postpones departure plans 2024 Summer Olympics Basketball Gilas Pilipinas News  - philippine sports news


“I hope that’s not on our minds. We are very process-driven and focus on what’s in front of us. We don’t want to dwell on the endgame and wonder, ‘What if we make it to Paris?’ Obviously, the country would go bonkers and be absolutely ecstatic,” he pointed out.

“But that’s far down the road. We’ve completed this step and have another to take. That’s where our focus is, and hopefully where our guys’ focus remains,” opined the most decorated head coach in PBA history.

“I think one of our issues coming into this game was not being able to move past the euphoria of beating Latvia, and the inundation of texts and social media posts from Manila. That really set the guys back. If we continue to look ahead like that, I think it could become a problem.”

On Saturday, Gilas will play the game of their lives.

Though they don’t yet know their opponent – whether Brazil, Montenegro, or Cameroon – Cone and his team will have a full day to prepare.

(Following the posting of this, Cameroon defeated Brazil, so Gilas will face Brazil in the semi-finals.)

He hopes that on Saturday, every Filipino in the area and neighboring countries will head to Arena Riga, making it feel like their home court.

2024-FIBA-OQT-Gilas-vs-Georgia-Fans-1 Gilas' surprise semis run postpones departure plans 2024 Summer Olympics Basketball Gilas Pilipinas News  - philippine sports news


“I’ll be surprised if not every Filipino in Latvia, and perhaps even in Lithuania and Estonia, shows up for the semifinals if they can get tickets. The issue during the Latvia game was the lack of tickets available for Filipinos,” beamed Cone.

“Now that they’ve secured tickets, it was fantastic having them there. We could hear them right behind our bench, and it was incredible.”

With just two wins standing between them and ending a 52-year Olympic drought, Cone hopes that everyone will continue to support them in this unexpected, magical journey.

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