Gabriel Jason Pascual

Gilas Pilipinas advances to the semi-finals of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Riga, Latvia, amidst a narrow 96-94 heartbreaker against Georgia following an aborted late game rally to avoid overtime, Thursday, July 4.

Photo Courtesy of FIBA.

Regardless of the two-point loss, Gilas averted elimination as they only needed to avoid a 19 point loss or more to clinch their semis trip.

With this feat, the Filipinos became the second team to move on from Group A.

Justin Brownlee put Gilas on his back with his impeccable scoring of 28 points, eight rebounds and assists, apiece to inch them closer in the middle stages of the ball game after a slow start.

Gilas needed to overcome an early 20-point deficit, and their bench managed to step up to the occasion by putting up an impressive 27-points to slowly chip through the lead.

The bench’s surge came to a head as Carl Tamayo hit a game-tying three to finally put the game at a deuce in the late third, 67-67.

Powered by picture perfect ball movement, Tamayo and Dwight Ramos’ five and seven late quarter points led Gilas to its third quarter run for a second equalizer, 74-74.

In the final quarter, CJ Perez’s clutch gene erupted for ten straight points in the final seven minutes of the game as he hit a dagger three-pointer with 2:45 left to put Gilas within one, 90-89.

With a one possession game and 14 seconds left on the clock, Gilas looked to run the clock out as they achieved the goal of avoiding a 19-point loss until Chris Newsome drew an intentional foul with two seconds left, 96-93.

Meanwhile, Goga Bitadze gathered his 11th and final rebound in a failed attempt to force overtime by scoring on their own goal, thus ending Georgia’s hopes of securing a 19+ point win in hopes for a semi-finals berth.

Contrary to how they ended the game, Georgia fired on all cylinders as they opened the gates with a 16-0 run, capitalizing on Gilas’ careless offense as they held them to zero points in the first five minutes of the game.

Gilas’ sluggish defense allowed Bitadze to put up an easy six points in Georgia’s opening run that ballooned to a 20-point lead, 40-20.

Alexander Mamukelashvili piled in 26 points and 7 rebounds to keep Georgia in a comfortable lead in the first half, 55-43.
“This is the first time I've felt good about losing” stated by Gilas Head Coach Tim Cone as he keeps his chin up despite the loss.

“I really just want to compliment our guys. They went down (by) 20 and it could easily have been panic time, and they worked their way back into the game,” added Cone.

Gilas Pilipinas now awaits their matchup against Brazil as they continue their quest for an Olympic Spot on Saturday, July 6.