April 14, 2024

Ginulat ang Gilas: Tim Cone surprised with Hong Kong’s first half performance in FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers

Ginulat ang Gilas: Tim Cone surprised with Hong Kong’s first half performance in FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers
Coach Tim Cone at the sidelines of the Gilas Pilipinas game against Hong Kong. | Photo (c) FIBA

Tim Cone didn’t hide his shock as Hong Kong kept in step with Gilas Pilipinas before the Filipino dribblers broke free in the second half for a 94-64 win in the 2025 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers opener on Thursday.

“I thought Hong Kong played a great first half and shocked us. We didn’t think they would play as well as they did,” Cone said after the match at the Tsuen Wan Sports Centre.

He particularly took note of Shiu Wah Leung and Oliver Xu's ability to shoot. They had 15 and 13 points respectively. Cone also lauded Ricky Yang for getting to the rim. He had three rebounds and six assists.

Good thing Gilas, with some help from the Filipino crowd inside the arena in Hong Kong, found its groove in the third period and outscored its foes, 30-9.

They refused to slow down from there.

“That’s the big advantage we have over other teams. No matter where we play there’s gonna be the crowd behind us cheering,” Cone said.

“We truly appreciate them. I thought they were the reason… we came out in the second half, made a couple of nice plays, and they really got them cheering hard and it kinda lifted our spirits and we got our momentum.”

What didn’t come a surprise for Cone, though, was Justin Brownlee’s rusty start.

He didn’t get Justin Brownlee numbers, but the beloved naturalized Filipino still came up with team-high 16 points on top of seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals. 

“He really struggled in the beginning of the game. You could tell he had rust, he hasn’t played a game in like four months,” Cone said of Brownlee, who took a four-month sabbatical from basketball after failing the doping test during the 19th Asian Games. He had tested positive for carboxy-THC, a substance linked to cannabis.

The rust was the reason why Cone decided to field Brownlee longer than he needed to in the fourth period, when the game was already in the bag.

“We continued to play him in the fourth period so he could continue to get his rhythm,” he said. “We know how good he is. We know what a great teammate he is. He is the lifeblood of this team so were happy he’s back.”

Brownlee is expected to fare a little better as Gilas travels back home to host Chinese Taipei on the 25th at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.

It will be aired at 7:30 p.m. on One Sports, One Sports+, RPTV, and the Pilipinas Live app.