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Gilas rules Asian Games hoops

Stymies Jordan for 1st gold medal since 1962, ends 61-year drought

Hangzhou—Heroes were born and history was made as the Philippines ended a six-decade wait to be crowned kings of Asian basketball once again.

Choosing to fight against great odds, Gilas Pilipinas methodically cut Jordan down to size in a 70-60 victory to rule the 19th Asian Games men’s basketball competition at the here Friday night.

Achieved against a roaring Chinese crowd who decided to root against the Filipinos for beating their team in the semifinals, the victory gave the Philippines its first basketball gold in the Games in 61 years, last accomplished by a Caloy Loyzaga-powered national team in 1962 in Jakarta

After scoring a scrambling, come-from-behind win against host China in the semifinals, the Filipinos didn’t need to play catch up this time against the Jordanians, who beat them to a pulp in the preliminaries, 87-62.

Instead, Gilas patiently set up plays, crashed the boards and ran the break to set the tone of the game in the first period, 17-12.

They lost control in the second, 31-29, before the steadying presenceof Justin Brownlee, Chris Newsome’s deft playmaking and defensive intensity against Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Angelo Kouame’s inside dominance put control back in the Filipinos’ hands at 51-41 entering the final period.

With Jefferson leading Jordan’s final push, they threatened to within 50-56, but Kouame strung up nine points going home to keep the Filipinos on safe ground at 68-59.

Kouame finished with 14 points and 11 boards.

The road to the basketball throne was never an easy one for the Filipinos.

Left with only 12 days to prepare after many members of its FIBA World Cup team declined to suit up for the flag due to prior commitments in the Japan and Korean pro leagues, Gilas Pilipinas formed a team hastily built around Brownlee.

The naturalized Filipino was himself bothered by a foot injury and was only “85 percent” of his full strength in the games, according to coach Tim Cone.

GOLDEN GILAS. The Philippines’ Chris Newsome lays up in front of Jordan’s Ahmad Al Dwairi early in their Asian Games gold medal match, which Gilas Pilipinas won 70-60 on Friday night to break a 61-year title drought in the continental games. The team then proudly takes the podium as coach Tim Cone (inset) looks up to the PH tricolor being raised to the rafters. AFP

But it didn’t matter. For the fifth straight game, Brownlee led the Philippines with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists, as he exacted revenge on Kobe Bryant clone Jefferson, who had 24 points but only on 28 percent shooting.

Part of it was the pesky defense on him by Newsome, who was cut from the final lineup of the Gilas team during last month’s World Cup.

“There were a lot of reasons that we couldn’t get it done rather than we could, but despite all that we fought through it, we really believed that we could do it,” said Newsome, who scored 14 points.

The gold was the Philippines’ fourth in these Asian Games, to go with 2 silvers and 12 bronze medals at 16th spot overall.

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