Juan Carlo R. Mercado

Almost but not quite there.

Without the presence of Kai Sotto, the Philippines got off to a great start but ran out of steam against Brazil with a 71-60 drubbing, ending Gilas' qualifying bid for the Olympics in the semifinals of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Riga, Latvia on July 6.

Photo Courtesy of GMA Network.

Gilas' scoring drought in the third period allowed the Brazilians to spark a 24-6 meltdown and to dictate the pace for the rest of the game, and on fastbreak opportunities, 40-33.

Naturalized Filipino Justin Brownlee was clamped down by Brazil, tallying a dormant 15-point performance along with eight rebounds, and two assists while June Mar Fajardo’s 10-point, 11-rebound performance still wasn’t enough to aid Philippines' stint in the third.

Brazil's Bruno Caboclo, who dominated in the paint, posted a double-double performance with 15 markers, 11 boards, and swatting three blocks while Marcelo Huertas who did a great job in creating plays, notched 13 points and dished out seven dimes.

With the absence of Gilas big man Kai Sotto, Former NBA players Caboclo and Huertas took care of business with Caboclo exposing Gilas in the pick-and-roll plays.

Even in the opening frame, Caboclo made his presence felt with a layup over Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar followed by a vicious slam.

In the third quarter, Caboclo capitalized on his speed as he knifed through the defense of Fajardo and punished him in pick-and-rolls.

Gilas scored its first point in the third frame with less than five minutes remaining via a follow-up from Fajardo off a Chris Newsome missed layup followed by a CJ Perez layup, then a Fajardo mid-range jumper, 46-39, in favor of Brazil.

The pick-and-roll combination of Huertas and Caboclo exposed the defense of Gilas, allowing Huertas to take jumpers and Caboclo to slide in the paint and score.

As Gilas still tried to recover in the fourth, Dwight Ramos who posted 13 markers rejected Huertas' layup, followed by a shot from beyond the arc from Carl Tamayo, 56-67, with two minutes and four seconds left in favor of the Brazilians.

CJ Perez's back-to-back points in the paint were insufficient to spark a comeback as Brazil showcased their countermeasures to snap the hopes of the Filipinos in the 52-year Olympic appearance since 1972.

Despite their loss, Gilas still is the highest-scoring squad in the group stage with an average of 91.5 points while Brazil's record against the Philippines is now 5-0.

Brazil will now wait for the winner of the Cameroon versus Latvia match for the FIBA Finals match.