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2024 Summer Olympics

Unbelievable Upset: Gilas Men, powered by Brownlee, Sotto, Fajardo, Ramos, stun Latvia in OQT-Riga


Gilas Pilipinas Men have just achieved the improbable in Riga, Latvia.

World No. 6 Latvia had no answers against the triple threat of Kai Sotto, Justin Brownlee, and June Mar Fajardo, with the trio carrying 37th-ranked Philippines to a stunning 89-80 wire-to-wire win to open the 2024 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament on Thursday morning (Manila time).

This victory is historic for Gilas as it marks the first time a Filipino national team has beaten a European squad since 2002, when RP Selecta defeated Ukraine 100-98 in Sondrio, Italy.

“I’m totally shocked to be sitting in front of you guys after winning this basketball game,” said Gilas head coach Tim Cone. “This is not something we thought we would be able to do, to be honest with you.

“We just wanted to come in, compete, and put on a good show.”

More importantly, the Philippines now sits atop Group A of OQT-Riga.

Latvia had previously defeated world No. 23 Georgia on Tuesday with an 83-55 decision.

2024-FIBA-OQT-Gilas-def-Latvia-Justin-Brownlee Unbelievable Upset: Gilas Men, powered by Brownlee, Sotto, Fajardo, Ramos, stun Latvia in OQT-Riga 2024 Summer Olympics Basketball Gilas Pilipinas News  - philippine sports news

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The Philippines will face Georgia on Thursday evening. A win will secure them the top seed in the pool and a place in the semifinals.

There, they will face either Montenegro (1-1), Brazil (1-0), or, if a miracle happens, Cameroon (0-1) in the knockout semis.

A loss will put Latvia in the driver’s seat, as they hold the quotient with their huge win over Georgia. Georgia needs to win by at least 19 points to get to the next round.

Gilas got off to a strong start, with the Philippine triple threat giving their side a surprising 8-0 lead.

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Bewildered, shocked, and stunned, the sold-out home crowd at Arena Riga watched as the first 10 minutes of the game ended with a buzzer-beating triple by CJ Perez, giving the visitors a surprising 32-16 lead.

2024-FIBA-OQT-Gilas-def-Latvia-Kai-Sotto Unbelievable Upset: Gilas Men, powered by Brownlee, Sotto, Fajardo, Ramos, stun Latvia in OQT-Riga 2024 Summer Olympics Basketball Gilas Pilipinas News  - philippine sports news

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Despite the efforts of Dairis Bertans in the second quarter, which cut the lead to single digits, the Filipinos weathered the storm, closing the first half with a 54-38 lead.

Gilas’ lead went to a peak of 26, 74-48, after a Dwight Ramos triple with 3:12 left in the third canto.

2024-FIBA-OQT-Gilas-def-Latvia-June-Mar-Fajardo Unbelievable Upset: Gilas Men, powered by Brownlee, Sotto, Fajardo, Ramos, stun Latvia in OQT-Riga 2024 Summer Olympics Basketball Gilas Pilipinas News  - philippine sports news

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The expected Latvia rally came in the last 10 minutes of the game – a hellish stretch for every Filipino.

Gilas’ lead went down to eight with 1:38 remaining in an ultimate test of composure.

Still, the Philippines survived to keep its Paris dreams burning.

Steady free throw shooting from Chris Newsome and Ramos sealed the first-ever win of the Philippines in an OQT.

“We got started early and hit our shots early. Thankfully, Latvia missed some shots,” said Cone.

“It turned out we got momentum and never really lost it.”

Brownlee flaunted his all-around game on the world stage, tallying 26 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists.

2024-FIBA-OQT-Gilas-def-Latvia-Kai-Sotto-x-June-Mar-Fajardo Unbelievable Upset: Gilas Men, powered by Brownlee, Sotto, Fajardo, Ramos, stun Latvia in OQT-Riga 2024 Summer Olympics Basketball Gilas Pilipinas News  - philippine sports news

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The twin-tower combination of Sotto and Fajardo proved effective as well, with the former scoring 18 points and grabbing eight boards.

Meanwhile, Fajardo went 5-of-6 from the field for 11 markers.

Ramos and Newsome, both stepping up as Gilas’ point guards, delivered as well with Ramos finishing with 12 points, seven rebounds, and four assists.

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The 2024 PBA Philippine Cup Finals MVP produced 10 points, four rebounds, and a steal.

Rodions Kurucs led Latvia with 18 points and seven rebounds. Davis Bertrans and Janis Strelnieks chipped in 10 points apiece.

Arturs Zagars, who tallied eight points and six assists against Georgia, missed the game.

“The absence of Zagars was huge for us. He is the guy that controls the tempo for them,” said Cone.


The Scores:

Philippines 89 – Brownlee 26, Sotto 18, Ramos 12, Fajardo 11, Newsome 10, Perez 6, Quiambao 3, Aguilar 2, Tamayo 1, Oftana 0.

Latvia 80 – Kurucs 18, Bertans Dav. 10, Strelnieks 10, Zoriks 10, Smits 9, Lomazs 6, Strautins 6, Bertans Dai. 5, Timma 3, Cavars 2, Mejeris 1.

Quarterscores: 32-16, 54-38, 77-56, 89-80.

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