In a historic and nail-biting encounter on October 6th, 2023, at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Gymnasium, Gilas Pilipinas secured their first Asian Games men’s basketball gold medal since 1962. Justin Brownlee emerged as the hero of the night, leading his team to victory with a stellar performance.
“Justin Brownlee was the Gilas Pilipinas’ hero once more,” reported the event. Brownlee’s contributions were nothing short of outstanding. He scored 20 crucial points, led the team with nearly 39 minutes on the court, and provided five assists, all while grabbing 10 rebounds. His remarkable all-around performance was a testament to his importance to the team throughout the tournament.
This victory also marked the end of Gilas Pilipinas’ medal drought, dating back to 1998 when they secured a bronze. Brownlee’s consistently stellar play during the competition had been instrumental in reaching this pinnacle.
The game started as a low-quality affair, with Jordan struggling with their three-point shooting in the first quarter. They managed only three successful field goal attempts out of 21. However, the situation improved in the second quarter, as they found their range from beyond the arc, even briefly taking the lead. But Brownlee’s brilliance ensured that Gilas Pilipinas entered halftime with a tied score of 31-31.
The local crowd at the venue seemed to favor Jordan, audibly jeering the Philippines’ free throw attempts. Despite this, Gilas Pilipinas remained composed. Brownlee’s clutch free throws after a foul extended their lead.
The teams continued to trade the lead early in the third quarter, with both attempting three-pointers. However, Gilas Pilipinas started to pull away with a 14-4 scoring run, ending the third quarter with a 10-point lead. The Jordanians, despite the support from their fans, couldn’t close the gap, as the Gilas defense proved solid.
As the clock ticked down, tension filled the air. The Philippines bench erupted with joy after every basket and defensive play, while the Jordanian players grew increasingly despondent. When the final buzzer sounded, the two teams exchanged respectful handshakes. Only then did the Gilas Pilipinas players start celebrating, with the sound of Filipino cheers echoing through the arena.
The victory was particularly meaningful because it ended a 61-year wait for gold, and the quality of the game took a backseat to the historic moment. As Chris Newsome expressed, “There was a lot of people who didn’t think we could do it, and we proved them wrong.” Angelo Kouame echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the unity and determination of the team, especially after the recent men’s FIBA Basketball World Cup hosted in Manila.
Earl Scottie Thompson emphasized the significance of the win for the country, saying, “This is special for us, for our country. This is a very meaningful win because we made history.” He credited the team’s game plan and defensive strategy for their success.
Man of the hour, Justin Brownlee, paid tribute to his teammates and the Filipino spirit, saying, “The Filipino heart, the Filipino pride… there is nothing like it. We displayed it in this tournament. We were down in some games, and we were up, and then we came back. The Filipino heart toughened us up a lot, especially in this gold medal game.”
Head coach Tim Cone had asked for one more great effort from his players, and they delivered a performance that will be remembered for generations. The Philippines’ journey to the gold involved overcoming adversity, avenging defeats, and displaying exceptional teamwork. Cone remarked, “It was just a good game by us tonight, and they (Jordan) had an off shooting night.”
The road to victory included victories over Qatar, Iran, and China, culminating in the defeat of a formidable opponent in Jordan. The win not only secured the gold medal but also marked the Philippines’ fifth gold medal in Asian Games history.
Reflecting on the win, Ange Kouame said, “It feels great, man. Everyone came together, and that was a great team effort. It means a lot after all these years, and that’s bigger than all of us.”
Chris Newsome, who had the challenging task of guarding Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, expressed his pride in contributing to the team’s success, particularly after missing out on a spot in the Gilas Pilipinas’ FIBA World Cup squad. His performance in the final helped ease that disappointment.
In the end, it wasn’t just a victory in basketball; it was a triumph of resilience, unity, and the indomitable Filipino spirit that carried Gilas Pilipinas to a historic Asian Games gold after six decades.