Asian Games 2023: Gilas Pilipinas suffers first loss, bows to Jordan

Jordan and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson ended Gilas Pilipinas’ winning run in the 2023 Asian Games on Saturday, September 30, sweeping Group C of the preliminaries, 87-62, and securing an outright berth to the quarterfinals at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center.

The loss threw Gilas into a minefield, its first setback after hard-earned wins over Bahrain and Thailand shoving the Nationals to a knockout game against Group D No. 3 placer Qatar on Monday, October 2, at 4:00 p.m. for a seat in the quarters.

Jordan, meanwhile, set up a quarterfinal showdown with either Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia or Kazakhstan on Tuesday, October 3, for one of four semifinal berths.

CJ Perez of the Philippines [PSC-POC photo]
CJ Perez of the Philippines [PSC-POC photo]

A victory by Gilas over Qatar, which downed Indonesia 74-67 in a do-or-die earlier, would put the Nationals in the rampaging path of Asian powerhouse Iran in the quarterfinals.

Only then can the Philippines think about Japan, which shocked South Korea earlier 83-77 on the strength of 17 three-point explosions.

Iran had swept Group A, completing its dominance in the preliminaries by brushing off Kazakhstan 86-60, on Saturday.

Gilas never had Jordan at its mercy. But it valiantly rallied from 42-29 at halftime to level twice, the second at 52-all on a CJ Perez drive with 1:14 left in the third quarter.

But just as quickly, the Jordanians, behind Holiis-Jefferson (25 points), point guard Fadi Ibrahim (24), Ahmad Al Dwairi (22) and shooter Sami Bzai (17), settled the ship and broke away with 13 unanswered points extending to the fourth quarter.

Jordan shot 52 percent from the floor (32 of 61), while Gilas floundered with 33 percent shooting (24 of 72), its offense bogged down by 20 missed triples.

The first half gave an indication of how the game would turn out.

AN 11-0 Jordan run from 19-all in the second quarter appeared to take the fight out of Gilas, which trailed 42-29 at the half.

The Nationals struggled to find their rhythm but couldn’t as they failed to convert open looks at the basket, shooting 8 of 23 (35 percent) in the first 20 minutes.

In the first quarter alone, the Jordans easily erased a 13-6 Gilas lead as Scottie Thompson, CJ Perez, Japeth Aguilar and Ange Kouame combined for 0 of 8 in the opening 10 minutes.

At the half, Perez remained mired at 0 of 4 from the field, Kouame 1 of 5, Aguilar 1 of 5 and Calvin Oftana 0 of 4.

Gilas missed 11 of 13 three-point attempts.

Only Justin Brownlee and June Mar Fajardo escaped the shooting funk, with Brownlee playing without relief in the first half and scoring 14 points while Fajardo had six.

Brownlee finished with 24 points and was the only Gilas player in double figures.

Jordan, in contrast, hit 10 of 18 of its two-point shots and 5 of 13 beyond the 3-point arc in the first two quarters.

Ibrahim ran rings around the defense with 9 points behind the 11 of Hollis-Jefferson, who had 11 points, and John Bohannon 10.

Hollis-Jefferson matched Brownlee’s length of stay in the first half and was 3 of 8 from the floor with five assists and five rebounds. He hit a buzzer-beating jumper before the intermission.

Ibrahim nailed a similar buzzer-beater — a trey — f to shatter a 13-all tie in the first quarter.

The Nationals had their finest moment in the third quarter, putting together a stirring comeback that wiped out a 13-point deficit to tie, 48-all, on a Brownlee basket, and 52-52 courtesy of a Perez slasher.

Jordan then took over.

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