Gilas routs Chinese Taipei,106-53; Brownlee, Sotto star

Gilas routs Chinese Taipei,106-53; Brownlee, Sotto star
Kai Sotto (left) and Justin Brownlee (right) are all smiles during Gilas Pilipinas's game against the visiting Chinese Taipei. —PHOTOS COURTESY OF FIBA.BASKETBALL

Gilas Pilipinas gained massive momentum as the squad gears up for the all-important Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in July.

The kings of Asian basketball flexed their muscles with a dominant 106-53 victory against a highly touted Chinese Taipei in the first window of the 2025 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers, Sunday night at the PhilSports Arena.

“We have to remember that Chinese Taipei played a top 20 team just three days ago in New Zealand,” coach Tim Cone said during the post-game press conference. 

“We played the same [Chinese Taipei] team, and these guys worked their tails off and made them look bad. And they’re not that bad, they’re a really talented team.”

To Cone’s point, this is the same squad that gave the almighty New Zealand Tall Blacks a run for their money during their game last week. 

The Taiwanese were very much in it, before the Kiwis unleashed a devastating 16-0 scoring run in the game’s final frame. But against Gilas, Chinese Taipei’s competitive flame appeared to have been snuffed as soon as the end of the first quarter.

A 30-point lead turned into 40, and then 50 when all five Gilas starters were already taking their rest on the bench.

Brownlee’s homecoming

Gilas Brownlee
Justin Brownlee slams the ball over Chinese Taipei’s Chun Chi Lin.

Leading the way for Gilas was naturalized player Justin Brownlee, who scored 26 points, with 13 rebounds, and five assists.

The Asian Games hero’s impact was undeniable, scoring 11 points in the first quarter that saw Gilas take a commanding 26-13 lead.

After the game, Brownlee took the opportunity to tell fans how much he missed playing in the country.

“I missed the fans more than anything. Just seeing smiles and being able to make them cheer and seeing their passion for the game,” he said, a wide smile plastered on his face. “[The crowd] definitely came in with some energy, and it made me want to be more aggressive.”

Brownlee was suspended from playing professional basketball last year after a doping test by the International Testing Agency (ITA) returned positive last October. With this, Sunday’s game against Chinese Taipei was his first on Philippine soil in 10 months.

Cone’s vision

Gilas Tim Cone
Coach Tim Cone gives out instructions during Gilas Pilipinas’ game.

A bigger victory, Cone believes, is that Gilas is shaping up to become the team he has always imagined.

“We played the way we envisioned the team to be, sharing the ball and having the big guy dominating,” said Cone.

The 7-foot-3 Kai Sotto continued to stand out with a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds.

The team’s unselfishness made itself manifest as more players were involved in the offense compared to its previous game. Besides Brownlee and Sotto, four more players finished with a double-digit mark for the Philippine side.

Calvin Oftana scored 13, Dwight Ramos had 12, Carl Tamayo collected 11, and Kevin Quiamabao added 10.

For now, the Gilas members will have to part ways and wait five months before their next game as a unit.

Gilas Pilipinas waves to the crowd after a dominant win.

It will be against European juggernauts Latvia and Georgia in the Olympic qualifiers in July.

After back-to-back wins, there’s a lot to be optimistic about, but Cone is under no illusion that Gilas is close to realizing its potential.

“This 2-0 start is great, but it’s just a little baby step on the way,” the veteran PBA tactician admitted. “We need to make bigger strides as we go, and the next team we play is Latvia, who’s a top eight team [in the world].”

“Can we get to that level? [The OQT] is gonna answer more questions for us.”

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