(2nd UPDATE) Gilas Pilipinas is heading to the semifinals of the 19th Asian Games, its first Asiad final four appearance since 2002.
Gilas nearly squandered a 21-point lead but managed to hold on for an 84-83 triumph over Iran, Tuesday afternoon at the Zhejiang University Zijingang Stadium in China.
Justine Brownlee poured in 36 huge points, 16 in the first quarter and 15 in the third frame, while also delivering eight rebounds and four assists.
June Mar Fajardo and Scottie Thompson also held the fort for the Filipino hoopers after the San Miguel superstar posted 18 markers, eight boards, and four dimes, while the Ginebra ace tallied 11 points, six rebounds, two assists, and a steal.
"In the international game, things can turn on a dime, and this did in the fourth quarter," Gilas coach Tim Cone said after the game. "Luckily we had a big lead. We should have never put ourselves in that position, but that’s the way these kinds of games are."
After being up by as much as 21, 62-41, following a Fajardo basket at the 5:25 mark of the third quarter, Gilas was not able to maintain the lead as they headed into the final frame.
Iran opened the fourth with their guns blazing, going on a 13-2 run built on buckets from Matin Aghanjanpour, two from three-pointers, and Meisam Mirzaeitalarposhti.
The Iranians were even able to take a one-point lead, 81-80, after a three-pointer and a pair of free throw makes by Mohammadsina Vahedi, and answered another deuce from Fajardo with a conversion by Navid Rezaeifar to hold an 83-82 lead with only 1:02 remaining in the game.
This is when Brownlee took matters into his hands yet again as he sank the eventual game-winning shot off a baseline floater with only 44 ticks remaining in the game.
"I think we did a good job in the first three quarters. But when they threw a wrench into our plans with that box-and-one, we just kinda struggled," said Cone, referring to the defense that Iran played against Brownlee in order to limit him.
Brownlee was held in check for most of the fourth quarter before he broke free for the game-winner. Iran still had a chance to get the lead back, but Matin Aghajanpour misfired on a three-pointer with 17 seconds to go and Gilas was able to run out the clock.
"I think the Iranian coach did a great job bringing his team back," said Cone.
"When [Aghajanpour] released it, I knew it was a miss. It was just a matter of ‘can we get the rebound?’ We did, and they chased us around but couldn’t get a foul off us," the coach added.
Vahedi was Iran’s leading scorer with 24 markers, four came from three-point bombs, while Rezaeifar and Mirzaeitalarposhti added 14 and 12, respectively, but they will be relegated to the tournament’s 5th-8th place classification phase.
Meanwhile, Gilas is set to battle against host China on Wednesday, October 4, at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Gymnasium at 8 PM.
Gilas Pilipinas 84 - Brownlee 36, Fajardo 18, Thompson 11, Oftana 7, Perez 6, Kouame 4, Newsome 2, Alas 0, Tolentino 0, Aguilar 0.
Iran 83 - Vahedi 24, Rezaeifar 14, Mirzaei 12, Aghajanpour 11, Girgoorian 8, Mashayekhi 6, Kazemi 6, Pazirofteh 2, Shahrian 0, Gholizadeh 0, Torabi 0.
Quarters: 28-22, 48-36, 71-54, 84-83.