Gilas Pilipinas advances to FIBA OQT semifinals despite narrow loss to Georgia

Gilas Pilipinas continues their journey in the 2024 FIBA Men’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament after a thrilling encounter against Georgia. Although they fell short with a final score of 96-94, they secured a crucial second-place finish in Group A, propelling them to the knockout stage.

Following their historic upset against host nation Latvia, Gilas entered the game needing only to avoid a loss by 19 points or more to guarantee a spot in the knockout stage. However, Georgia, fueled by their prior blowout loss to Latvia, approached the matchup with a different agenda โ€“ they needed a comprehensive victory by at least 19 points to advance.

Georgia’s Aggressive Start Stuns Gilas

The opening minutes unfolded like a nightmare for Gilas. A sluggish start allowed Georgia to establish a dominant 16-0 lead, leaving the Filipinos scrambling to find their footing. This deficit grew to a staggering 20 points early in the second quarter, putting Gilas’ Olympic dreams seemingly at risk.

However, Coach Tim Cone’s team refused to surrender. Fueled by unwavering determination, Gilas embarked on a stirring comeback. A pivotal 12-0 run ignited a spark, slowly chipping away at Georgia’s lead. They managed to close out the second quarter trailing by 12 points (43-55) and even captured their first lead of the game (71-70) in the third period.

Gilas Pilipinas and Georgia at 74-all to end the third quarter.

Despite the loss, Gilas Pilipinas displayed commendable resilience throughout the matchup. The narrow defeat ensures their qualification for the OQT semifinals, keeping their Olympic aspirations alive. This scenario played out exactly as envisioned โ€“ even with a loss, as long as the margin wasn’t 19 points or more, Gilas would advance.

Brownlee Leads the Charge

Justin Brownlee, once again, emerged as the hero for Gilas. Following his near triple-double performance against Latvia, Brownlee put on another show, finishing the game with a team-high 28 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists. His leadership and clutch plays were instrumental in keeping Gilas in contention.

Three-point shooting proved to be a crucial factor in Gilas’ comeback attempt. Brownlee and Dwight Ramos combined for an impressive 8 for 15 success rate from beyond the arc, showcasing their accuracy from deep. Overall, Gilas shot a remarkable 56.5% from three-point range (13 for 23 attempts), highlighting their offensive efficiency.

While Brownlee undoubtedly stole the show, the entire Gilas team deserves recognition for their contributions. Ramos (16 points, 5 rebounds) and Chris Newsome (13 points, 6 assists) provided valuable support, while CJ Perez chipped in with 14 points off the bench. This collective effort ensured Gilas’ qualification for the next stage of the tournament.

Kai Sotto, who played just over 11 minutes before leaving the game in the second quarter due to an injury, tallied four points. Orlando Magic center Goga Bitadze landed on him with full weight, forcing Sotto to exit the game early. The severity of Sotto’s injury and his availability for the upcoming semifinals remain uncertain.

Georgia’s Bitter Victory

Despite winning the game, Georgia faced a bittersweet outcome. Even with standout performances from Sandro Mamukelashvili (26 points, seven rebounds), Goga Bitadze (21 points, nine rebounds), and Tornike Shengelia (17 points, seven rebounds), Georgia’s inability to secure a 19-point margin meant they failed to advance to the semifinals. Georgia’s victory was not enough to surpass the Philippines’ earlier triumphs and secure their place in the next round.

Statistical Highlights

  • Field Goal Percentage: Philippines shot 64.3%, while Georgia managed 48.1%.
  • Three-Point Field Goal: Philippines hit 56.5% (12/23), Georgia shot 37.1% (13/35).
  • Rebounds: Philippines outrebounded Georgia 36-28.
  • Assists: Georgia had more assists, 28-25.
  • Turnovers: Gilas committed 20 turnovers compared to Georgia’s 6.

With their place in the next round confirmed, Gilas Pilipinas will now shift their focus towards their upcoming semifinal opponent. The identity of their next challenger will be determined by the outcome of the remaining Group B matches.

While the outcome of the Georgia game wasn’t ideal, it serves as a valuable learning experience for the team. They can analyze their performance, identify areas for improvement, and use this knowledge to strategize for their upcoming challenge.

The Road to Paris Continues

The fight for a spot in the Paris 2024 Olympics isn’t over yet. Gilas Pilipinas has proven their mettle and their ability to compete against strong international competition. The upcoming semifinal match will be another significant hurdle, but with their unwavering spirit and the unwavering support of the Filipino nation behind them, they have the potential to achieve their goals.

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