Gilas Pilipinas’ spirited comeback led by Justin Brownlee fell short as it bowed to Jordan, 91-90, to wrap up its Fiba World Cup Asian Qualifiers campaign on Monday at the Philippine Arena.
The game started as a nightmare for the home team as Jordan came out firing and quickly built a 41-16 lead in the second quarter. But the Filipinos showed their fighting spirit, clawing their way back into the game with a third-quarter rally led by the phenomenal Justin Brownlee.
Brownlee, who played just his second game for the national team, scored 41 points and unleashed five triples. He also had 12 rebounds and three assists, carrying the weight of the team’s offense on his shoulders.
“Justin was phenomenal. He really carried us on his back and gave us a chance to win the game,” said national team coach Chot Reyes after the game.
Despite the heroics of Brownlee, the Philippines failed to take the lead in the final minute and a half of the game, missing several potential game-winning shots.
“It was a nightmare start for us. Credit to Jordan, they came out very sharp. They prepared for us really well, and you saw that with the score in the first half,” said Reyes.
“However, credit to our guys for not giving up. 20, 25 points down, and we still clawed back. We gave ourselves a chance to win the ball game.”
PBA MVP Scottie Thompson had a forgettable game, missing two crucial free throws with .30 ticks remaining in the game. His missed free throws proved costly for the Filipinos, as they were unable to complete the comeback.
“I’m gonna learn from this and sobrang dami kong nabigong mga Pilipino so, masakit for me but I think ito yung pinakabest na ni-remind sakin na I have to get better,” said Thompson after the game.
Jamie Malonzo, who also put up solid numbers in the win over Lebanon, added 11 points for Gilas Pilipinas. Jordan Heading and Thompson had nine apiece.
“Anytime you come down 20 to 25 points like that and get that close to winning? Super disappointing. But you know, it probably happened for the better of our team, because we’re gonna come back stronger for sure,” said Malonzo of the failed comeback.
Jordan, which had already secured a spot in the global event as hosts, had a balanced attack, with Dar Tucker scoring 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Freddy Ibrahim adding 19 points and eight assists.
Despite the loss, Gilas Pilipinas can take some positives from its performance in the Asian Qualifiers, particularly the emergence of Justin Brownlee as a legitimate star for the team.
“We’re proud of what we accomplished in this tournament. We showed our fighting spirit and resilience, and we know we can compete with the best teams in Asia,” said Reyes.
Gilas Pilipinas will now turn its attention to the FIBA World Cup, which will be held in Jordan later this year.