Jul 05, 2024

Giant-killing Gilas eyes finals berth against Brazil

GILAS Pilipinas again goes for the improbable when it seeks a berth in the finals of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, facing a Brazil side that has several veteran NBA players on its rosters.

The Filipinos and Brazilians face each other in Saturday's semifinals at 8:30 p.m. (Manila time), in the first game of a doubleheader at Riga Arena.

Ranked no. 12 in the world, Brazil is led by old hand Marcelinho Huertas, Gui Santos, Didi Louzada, Bruno Caboclo, Raul Neto, and Cristiano Felicio, all of them had experience playing in the NBA.

Gilas Pilipinas has no player who previously played in basketball's biggest stage, but the team has Justin Brownlee, who came again with his A-game in a close 96-94 loss to Georgia on Thursday at the end of group phase.

The 36-year-old Brownlee fired 28 points and had eight rebounds, and eight assists against Georgia as he willed the Filipinos back from a 0-16 deficit in the first quarter and avoid missing out making the semifinals despite losing the game.

Sponsored content:
"We feel great. Like coach (Tim Cone) was saying, we don't think we were expecting (to be here), or maybe anybody," said Brownlee. "But we battled hard. Guys fought hard. Being down 17, 18 points prior to that, we were a little down, but we still didn't lose our confidence."

A big question mark for Gilas though, is the health of young big man Kai Sotto, who obviously hurt his rib area in the second quarter after Georgia's Joe Thomasson fell all over him midway in the second quarter during a play underneath the basket.

The 7-foot-3 center appeared ok following the incident, but never came back into the game. He finished with four points and two block shots.

Sotto was later rushed to the hospital to check on his hurting rib.

The checkup turned out to be negative, but the situation of Sotto - who finished with 18 points and eight rebounds in the monumental 89-80 upset of Latvia - remains a game-time decision according to the team.

Sponsored content:
The other semis pairing will pit host Latvia against Cameroon.

Winners of both semis clash in the finals for the right to clinch a berth to the Paris Olympics.(RG)