The long wait is over. Gilas Pilipinas shocked the world by ending a 61-year gold medal drought after overcoming the Jordanian powerhouse, 70-60, on Friday, October 6. The Philippines' GOAT import Justin Bronwlee scored a team-high 20 points, and Ange Kouame stepped up in this game, showcasing 14 big points and 11 rebounds off the bench to make the Filipino crowd proud and loud in the 5x5 basketball championship at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou.
After over six long decades of denial, the Philippines finally got a taste of sweet victory after grabbing their first ever gold medal in basketball since 1962, giving the Philippines its fourth gold in the ASIAN games 2023. This victory is a testament to the progressive improvement in Philippine basketball on the international stage, competing against the best-of-the-best teams in Asia and in the world.
The Philippines completed their exact revenge against Jordan, who had bested them in a heartbreaking 90-91 defeat during the 2023 FIBA Asia Qualifiers and an embarrassing 62-87 blowout from the Jordanian players in the group stage. The Nationals were able to break through from the deadlock halftime score of 31-31 and upped their defensive intensity to hold Jordan’s offense to just 10 points in the third frame to ultimately seal the deal with a 70-60 gold medal triumph.
Jordan’s naturalized player, Rondae Hollis Jefferson, was enormous in the championship match, tallying a double-double performance of 24 points and 12 rebounds. However, the Philippines’ Justin Brownlee matched Hollis Jefferson’s outburst by tallying a double-double performance of his own with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Prior to this game, Brownlee just had a historic outing against China in the semis as he single-handedly erased a 20-point deficit and sank a game winner to advance Gilas in the finals round.
It was the Philippines’ defense paired with deep bench production led by Ange Kuome, and Justin Brownlee’s individual brilliance and heroics proved to be more than the Jordanian team could handle. Gilas Pilipinas demonstrates great defense, resulting in the opposing team scoring a meager 60 points on 26% of their shots. Jordan's naturalized player, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, is shut off, leaving 24 points on just 8 of 29 shooting.
This historic victory capped the humble beginning of their journey towards basketball immortality, as issues that lingered within the team echoed around the country and the world. Gilas’ former head coach, Chot Reyes, stepped down from the coaching job after a disappointing exit during the 2023 FIBA World Cup that saw the team crumble against their adversaries in the tournament and faced several backlash from fans in the country. This led to the recruitment of Gilas’ former head coach and the current head coach of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Tim Cone.
On top of that, the team was formed in a rush after the FIBA World Cup, which resulted in several days of waiting for a decision on the eligibility of new players and wasn’t finalized until days before the competition. Nevertheless, the Philippines’ eagerness to bring home the gold medal carried them into the championship game.