The 19th Asian Games bore witness to a basketball miracle that left the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center in stunned silence. Justin Brownlee, akin to a sorcerer wielding a magic wand, conjured a spellbinding performance that ousted host China from gold medal contention with a 77-76 victory. This transformative moment elevated Gilas Pilipinas from a hastily assembled team with roster uncertainties to the status of national heroes.
The upcoming championship clash against Jordan on October 6 overshadows even Coach Tim Cone’s own bronze medal achievement with the Philippine Centennial Team in the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok. This historic feat marks the Philippines’ first appearance in the Asian Games final since 1990 when the legendary Robert Jaworski led an all-PBA team to the silver medal in Beijing.
Brownlee, ensnared by a suffocating box-and-1 defense for much of the men’s basketball semis, broke free in the fourth quarter, launching a barrage of three-pointers that included a pivotal shot from well beyond the arc. With 23 seconds remaining, Brownlee’s sublime three-pointer propelled Gilas ahead 77-76, clinching the game-winning basket.
China called a timeout and orchestrated a play for Zhang Zhelin, but his three-point attempt fell short. CJ Perez, whose driving layup had kept Gilas in the contest at 76-69, secured the rebound, igniting jubilant celebrations on the bench.
The dramatic finale unfolded before thousands of Chinese fans, who were poised to cheer their team’s return to the final, only to be stunned into silence by Brownlee and an unexpected hero – backup point guard Kevin Alas. Alas’ three-pointer with 5:29 remaining brought Gilas within 69-65, igniting the breathtaking comeback.
Despite a missed free throw and an apparent fast 5-second inbounding violation, momentum swung irreversibly in Gilas’ favor. Two missed free throws by China set the stage for Brownlee’s short jumper, narrowing the deficit to 76-71. A timeout by the host team yielded no results, and Ange Kouame’s steal set the stage for Brownlee’s sixth three-pointer, leveling the score at 76-74.
Perez secured another crucial rebound, and Brownlee, undeterred, sank his seventh three-pointer from an improbable angle, leaving the 15,000-seater arena in disbelief.
Coach Cone aptly summed up the historic victory, declaring, “It was just a miracle win,” as his wish for a rematch with Jordan was granted.
The game’s outset appeared ominous for Gilas, with China racing to an 11-2 lead fueled by precise shooting and the fervent support of the home crowd. However, a determined Gilas fought back, forging a tie at 17-all and fueling hopes of an upset.
China regained control in the second quarter, amassing a 20-point lead before settling for a 48-30 advantage at halftime. Brownlee, shackled by a box-and-1 defense, was limited to just five shot attempts in the first half.
Despite committing 10 turnovers, Gilas displayed resilience, shooting 40 percent from the field compared to China’s 57 percent. The game’s intensity extended to the free-throw line, with China attempting 17 shots, compared to the Philippines’ perfect 6-of-6 record.
The victory sets the stage for a monumental showdown against Jordan for the gold medal on October 6. China will face Chinese-Taipei in the battle for bronze earlier in the day.
Jordan secured their place in the final by overpowering Chinese-Taipei with a resounding 90-71 victory. This remarkable achievement marks Jordan’s first appearance in the Asian Games final, a redemptive journey after finishing last in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the TNT Tropang Giga import, led the Jordanian charge with 20 points, supported by Ahmad Al Dwairi’s 19 points and 10 rebounds, and John Bohannon’s double-double performance with 15 points and 15 rebounds.