Gilas Pilipinas’ dream of an Olympic ticket shatters after semis loss to Brazil

Still a good run! Salute, Gilas Pilipinas! (FIBA)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

The Gilas Pilipinas men’s national basketball team crashed out of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) after suffering a semifinal round loss against Brazil, 71-60, on July 6, 2024, in Riga, Latvia.

After a convincing first-half performance where they built a double-digit lead in the opening quarter, Gilas suddenly went flat in the crucial third period as the Brazilians limited them to just six points, their lowest-scoring frame of the entire FIBA OQT tournament.

Trailing by six points heading into the second half, the more experienced and higher-ranked Brazil squad made the necessary adjustments in the last two quarters that helped them get the better of the PHL.

The Brazilians kicked off their successful comeback attempt after putting the clamps on Justin Brownlee, Gilas’ top-scorer in the tournament.

By rotating guys to defend Gilas’ main gunner, Brownlee had difficulty generating clean looks during their offensive possessions.

Aside from their defensive schemes on Brownlee, Brazil also decided to attack him at the post. With the successive down-the-block plays against the naturalized Filipino, he quickly became fatigued in the remaining five minutes of the game.

Without the presence of Kai Sotto who was too valuable in their OQT campaign with his defensive intimidation in the shaded lane, the Brazilians capitalized on that opportunity and just pummeled their way inside Gilas’ loose interior defense.

Bruno Caboclo of Brazil had an easy time working inside Gilas’ post area and led his squad with a double-double performance of 15 points and 11 rebounds.

It was Caboclo who torched Gilas in the third quarter as Brazil’s high-low post-play benefited him for three straight minutes that capped off their 12-0 run midway through the third.

Picking up where Caboclo left off was Brazil’s veteran floor general Marcelo Huertas who took over the fourth quarter with his big-time shot-making.

Huertas backstopped Caboclo with 13 points, seven assists, and a rebound while bruising power forward Lucas Dias added 10 markers and nine boards.

Unfortunately, Gilas failed to sustain their waxing hot start, clinching an early 10-point lead in the first quarter led by the hot Dwight Ramos who already had eight points in the first 10 minutes.

However, Ramos slowed down for the rest of the game and only added five points to finish with 13 markers, three rebounds, and three assists.

On the other hand, Brownlee was held to his worst scoring game of the OQT, only producing 15 points, eight rebounds, and two dimes.

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