Can’t say Justin Noypi’s Herculean effort for his kababayans was a surprise, though.
Justin Brownlee conjured some magic on Wednesday night and helped Gilas Pilipinas advance to the Asian Games 5x5 men’s basketball gold medal match.
Brownlee carried the Filipinos on his broad shoulders, especially in the final stretch where he scored 8 straight points, including the go-ahead triple for the final tally, 77-76.
"Coach Tim (Cone), he told us before the game we have to do something special to win this game. It was a special win for us," said Brownlee, who struggled to find the words to explain his spectacular exploits.
Indeed, it was a special win. And that's because Gilas did something special.
Little by little, Gilas chipped away at a 9-point deficit inside the final 3 minutes, with Cjay Perez driving to the basket on a broken play for a devil-may-care layup that trimmed the gap to seven, 69-76. Then, Brownlee happened.
After Jiwei Zhao muffed a pair of free throws, the beloved Barangay Ginebra San Miguel star scored on a tightly-contested floater. The next time he touched the ball, the naturalized player uncorked a stepback triple that kissed nothing but net.
Then, he made his biggest play in a Gilas jersey. Off a screen, Brownlee dribbled left from just inside the halfcourt line and uncorked another triple with 23.3 ticks remaining that pierced through the hearts of the partisan crowd at the Hangzhou Olympic Centre Gymnasium.
Magic Brownlee ended up with 33 points on 7-for-12 shooting from rainbow country and added 5 rebounds and 4 assists for good measure. Scottie Thompson, Brownlee's Ginebra teammate, chipped in 13 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals, while June Mar Fajardo and Perez had 8 markers apiece.
China, which led 48-30 at halftime and built as much as a 21-point advantage, leaned on Rui Zhao, who unleashed four triples on his way to 18 points.
Mingzuan Hu, Junlong Zhu, and Zhelin Wang chipped in 10 markers each.
Brownlee and Gilas will take on Rondae Hollis-Jefferson's Jordan in the final.
(With reports from Paolo del Rosario, One Sports)