Gilas Pilipinas’ Paris Olympics dreams dashed by Brazil in FIBA OQT

The dream run of Gilas Pilipinas at the 2024 FIBA Men’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Riga, Latvia came to an abrupt end after a heartbreaking 71-60 defeat against Brazil in the semifinals on Saturday, July 6th.

Despite a strong start and a valiant effort from Justin Brownlee, the Philippines couldn’t overcome a disastrous third quarter that saw them outscored 24-6 by a more aggressive Brazilian team.

A Bright Start Dashed by a Disastrous Third

The Filipinos defied early odds, overcoming a 5-0 deficit to take a commanding 22-12 lead in the opening quarter.

Brownlee, who has been instrumental throughout the tournament, continued his impressive form, carrying the Philippine offense with his scoring and playmaking abilities.

However, the Brazilians, a three-time Olympic bronze medal team, showed their experience by clawing their way back in the second quarter. They closed the gap to within six points at halftime (33-27).

The momentum shifted dramatically in the third period. Brazil came out with renewed intensity, launching a devastating 14-0 run to take a 41-33 lead.

The Philippines’ defense struggled to contain the Brazilians’ offensive attack, while Brownlee, their offensive engine, was effectively neutralized. This resulted in a meager six points for Gilas in the entire quarter, effectively extinguishing their hopes.

Brazil’s Experience Proves Too Much

The strong showing in the first half ultimately proved a distant memory as Brazil capitalized on their dominance in the third.

Veterans like Bruno Caboclo (15 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Marcelo Huertas (13 points, 7 assists) proved to be thorns in the side of the Philippines. Huertas, in particular, stepped up in the fourth quarter, scoring nine crucial points to seal the victory for Brazil.

Missed Opportunities and Looking Ahead

The loss can be attributed to several factors. The absence of the injured Kai Sotto, a talented young center, undoubtedly impacted the team’s interior presence. Additionally, the Philippines’ struggles to contain Brazil’s offense in the third quarter proved decisive.

Brownlee, who averaged 27 points throughout the tournament, was held to just 15 points, a testament to the effectiveness of the Brazilian defense.

Despite the setback, Gilas Pilipinas can take heart from their overall performance in the OQT. They finished the group stage as the highest-scoring team with an average of 91.5 points.

Players like Brownlee, Dwight Ramos (13 points), and June Mar Fajardo (10 points, 11 rebounds) displayed their talent and potential.

This campaign serves as a valuable learning experience for the young Gilas squad. With continued development and strategic adjustments, they can build upon this performance and strive for future success in international tournaments, including the FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers.

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