Gilas Pilipinas secures semis berth despite losing to Georgia in Fiba OQT

SEMIS-BOUND. Justin Brownlee of the Philippines shoots against a defender from Georgia during their group phase match in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2024 at the Arena Riga, Latvia, on Thursday evening, July, 4 (PH time).  Georgia prevailed, 96-94, but Gilas Pilipinas advanced to the semifinals due to superior points difference.
SEMIS-BOUND. Justin Brownlee of the Philippines shoots against a defender from Georgia during their group phase match in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2024 at the Arena Riga, Latvia, on Thursday evening, July, 4 (PH time). Georgia prevailed, 96-94, but Gilas Pilipinas advanced to the semifinals due to superior points difference. FIBA PHOTO

Gilas Pilipinas clinched a spot in the final four due to a superior points difference, edging out Georgia, who exited the competition despite their 96-94 victory at the Arena Riga, Latvia on Thursday, July 4, 2024.

The Philippines secured a semi-final berth, alongside hosts Latvia, emerging as the top two teams in Group A. Gilas earlier shocked World No. Latvia, 89-80.

SEMIS-BOUND. Justin Brownlee of the Philippines shoots against a defender from Georgia during their group phase match in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2024 at the Arena Riga, Latvia, on Thursday evening, July, 4 (PH time).  Georgia prevailed, 96-94, but Gilas Pilipinas advanced to the semifinals due to superior points difference.
Justin Brownlee-led Gilas stuns World No. 6 Latvia in Fiba Olympic qualifiers

After Kai Sotto's injury forced him out at halftime, Justin Brownlee stepped up for Gilas Pilipinas, leading the match with 28 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists.

Dwight Ramos added 16 points, five rebounds, and four assists, while CJ Perez contributed 14 points, and Chris Newsome had 13 points, four rebounds, and six assists.

Georgia's Alexander Mamukelashvili also shone with an outstanding 26 points and three steals.

FIBA

Huge comeback

Gilas Pilipinas staged a remarkable turnaround, erasing a 20-point deficit to tie the match at 67-all with just three minutes remaining in the third period. The Philippines and Georgia figured in six lead changes and five ties, showcasing intense competition from both teams.

Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tim Cone commended his team's resilience, highlighting their ability to battle back from such a significant deficit without giving in to panic.  Despite facing challenges throughout the game, he acknowledged that a few unlucky streaks could have widened the gap to 30 points, potentially ending their tournament hopes early.

Cone said they had initially planned to depart on Friday, July 5, with tickets already purchased.  

"I guess we're going to have to move them back a little bit that's how surprised we are to be here and talking to you guys. It's the first time I felt good about losing," he said during a live-streamed post-game press conference via Fiba Media YouTube.

Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tim Cone
Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tim ConeFIBA

Missing Kai

Cone noted that they lost Kai Sotto early in the game and could not bring him back, as he was undergoing hospital tests, including X-rays on his ribs. There's no update yet on his condition and availability for future games. 

The team mounted a comeback thanks to strong performances from their bench, especially Carl Tamayo, Perez, Kevin Quiambao, and Japeth Aguilar, who stepped up in Sotto's absence. Their collective effort kept them competitive throughout the game. Although they had a chance to force overtime with a three-pointer at the end, they chose not to, avoiding the risk of a larger deficit in overtime.

Kai Sotto in action before leaving the game at halftime due to an injury
Kai Sotto in action before leaving the game at halftime due to an injuryFIBA

Staying confident

Cone acknowledged the early loss of Kai Sotto, who was sidelined for hospital tests, including X-rays on his ribs, with no update yet on his condition for future games.

"We battled hard, guys fought hard, you know. Being down 17, 18 points probably got a little down but we still didn't lose our confidence," Brownlee said.  

He praised Georgia for their strong performance, also expressing excitement about advancing to the next stage. Brownlee also credited Coach Tim for crucial adjustments that helped them regain their rhythm.

Regarding Sotto's comparison of himself to Michael Jordan and Ramos' praise as his best teammate, Brownlee graciously accepted the compliments, though he found it humbling.

He emphasized his commitment to teamwork, fostering camaraderie, and supporting his fellow players on and off the court.

He attributed his motivation to Coach Tim's philosophy that "one is too small of a number to achieve greatness," inspiring him to maximize team performance and give his best effort. MLSA

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