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19th Asian Games

Philippines ends 61-year gold drought in Asian Games Basketball

Gilas won arguably the most unexpected gold medal for the Philippines in the 19th Asian Games as they ruled the men’s basketball wars after beating Jordan in the Final, 70-60, Friday night at the Hangzhou Olympic Center Gym in China.

Unlike most of their counterparts in the competition, the team only had two weeks to prepare for the continental conclave as they were beset with problems — first in identifying the head coach, and then finding players eligible to compete.

Yet against all odds, this practically rag-tag unit managed to write history by ending the country’s 61-year title drought in Asiad men’s hoops, or since the team bannered by the great Caloy Loyzaga won it all in 1962 for a four-peat.

Heroes were aplenty in the Filipino dribblers’ unlikely ascension to the top, with Justin Brownlee leading the charge as he finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals, and a block in over 38 minutes of play.

Ange Kouame shone brightly with 14 points and 11 rebounds, indeed saving his best for last as he gallantly mixed it up with the Falcons’ more experienced frontcourt featuring Ahmad Al-Dwairi and Mohammed Hussein.

The 25-year-old out of Ateneo also had the opportunity of a lifetime to secure the crown as he calmly made both of his free throws with 10.7 seconds left to play.

His foul shots, furthermore, preserved his timely hits in the final minutes, which included a huge cleanup of Chris Newsome’s missed baseline jumper to re-establish their lead to nine points, 64-55, with 1:44 to spare.

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Kouame was also the one who collared a crucial rebound with under a minute to go, as he hauled down a missed shot by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. That soon led to Scottie Thompson’s perfect trip to the line to make it a 66-55 lead.

Newsome and Thompson were both instrumental as well in the triumph. The Meralco star finished with 13 points, all the while making it hard for Hollis-Jefferson all night to unleash his old, lethal form.

The reigning PBA MVP, on the other hand, finished with 11 points, five rebounds, and three assists. He made a pair of triples, one of which served as his side’s first points as he showed assertiveness on offense right from the get-go.

June Mar Fajardo, CJ Perez, Calvin Oftana, Kevin Alas, and Japeth Aguilar all provided significant contributions in the success that also helped chief bench tactician Tim Cone exorcise the ghost of the past.

It could be remembered that the PBA’s only 25-time champion coach had the chance to vie for gold in the 1998 edition in Bangkok, but got denied by China in the semis. The stacked RP Centennial Team settled for bronze instead.

Twenty-five years later, he would beat China in the semis of the 19th Asiad in their own home floor, eventually taking home the prize he had always wanted.

With this monumental victory, Gilas has given the Philippines its fourth gold in the ongoing Hangzhou Games, with the others coming from pole vault star EJ Obiena and jiujitsu queens Meggie Ochoa and Annie Ramirez.

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Hollis-Jefferson, meanwhile, led Jordan with 24 points in the defeat, which left the team heartbroken as they missed out on winning the championship no thanks to the very same team they beat by 25 in the group stage last Saturday.

Freddy Ibrahim was the only other double-digit scorer with 13 points for the Falcons, which actually managed to wipe out a 13-point lead in the second chapter and take a 31-29 lead but could not keep hold of it.

Still, the team from West Asia will be going home with its first-ever silver medal from the Asian Games after two bronze finishes in the past.

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.

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

Written By

Oftentimes on the sidelines. Forever a student of the game. Morayta-bred.

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