Justin Brownlee Naturalized player Justin Brownlee of Gilas Pilipinas goes for a lay-up, while teammate June Mar Fajardo and Marc Khouveiry of Lebanon look on. The Filipinos defeated the Lebanese, 107-96, before another big crowd at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. Photo courtesy of FIBA Basketball

Home sweet home for Gilas

February 26, 2023 Robert Andaya 399 views
Carmelo Anthony
NBA All Star and now FIBA Ambassador Carmelo Anthony. Photo courtesy of FIBA Basketball

WELCOME to Team Philippines, Justin Brownlee.

Brownlee finally made his long-awaited debut as a member of the national team in Gilas Pilipinas’ vengeful 107-96 win over Lebanon in the sixth window of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers at the 55,000-seat Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan last Friday.

And Brownlee, the resident Barangay Ginebra import who acquired Philippine citizenship early this year, made sure his debut would be a memorable one before thousands of his new kababayans.

Brownlee finished with 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting while adding five assists, four rebounds and two steals in 29 minutes of action.

The 34-year-old Brownlee nailed 2-of-3 from three-point range.

That was enough for Gilas Pilipinas, which avenged an earlier setback to the Lebanese, 81-85, on the road during the fourth window last August.

But it was not all Brownlee for Gilas Pilipinas and coach Chot Reyes.

Jamie Malonzo added 15 points. Mason Amos contibuted 13 points and Bobby Ray Parks, Jordan Timothy Heading and Dwight Ramos chipped in 10 points each for Reyes, who begged off from his duties as TNT coach to concentrate on the national team.

Mason, the 18-year-old big man, went a perfect 5-of-5 from the field, including 3-of-3 from the three-point arc as he scored 11 of his 13 points during the third quarter.

Heading, the deadly Fil-Australian standout, went 4-of-8 from the field in his return to the national team after playing under former Gilas coach Tab Baldwin.

“Obviously , we’re very satisfied with our offense. We shot the ball well. In fact, we had 31 assists on only 13 turnovers and that allowed us to shoot 17 threes,” said Reyes after the game.

Reyes, however, admitted the team still needs to work on defense.

“There are still a lot left to be desired on our defense,” added Reyes, noting the Filipinos almost gave up 100 points against a Lebanon team that played without top gunner Wael Arakji, Ali Haidar, and naturalized Jonathan Arledge.

“As always the case, there’s always something to be happy about, and some things to continue working on.”

Notably absent for Gilas Pinas were Kai Sotto and Carl Tamayo. who missed action due to their commitments in the Japan B.League, and Japeth Aguilar and Roger Pogoy, who both sustained an injury during their games in the PBA.

Amir Saoud finished with 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting while Hayk Gyokchyan added 21 points in a losing effort for Lebanon and coach Jaed El Hajj.

Like the Filipinos, the Cedars also missed the services of several key players.

Arakji who torched Gilas Pilipinas with 24 points including a key three-pointer in Lebanon’s 85-81 win in Beirut, was also not available.

Meanwhile, the 10-time NBA All-Star and three-time Olympic gold medalist Carmelo Anthony was formally introduced as one of the Global Ambassadors for the FIBA World Cup 2023.

Anthony, who also graced the game between the Philippines and Lebanon, joins other NBA stars Pau Gasol and Luis Scola as Ambassadors.

“I’ve proudly represented the USA on the world’s largest stage, and the World Cup is the toughest competition in international basketball,” Carmelo said in a statement released by FIBA.

“It’s all about striking a perfect balance of personnel, talent and having that great chemistry. I’m looking forward to supporting all the players at the World Cup this year and celebrating the sport on a global scale,” added Anthony.

The scores:

Philippines (107) — Brownlee 17, Malonzo 15, Amos 13, Parks 10, Heading 10, Ramos 10, Fajardo 9, Perez 8, K.Ravena 8, Thompson 5, T.Ravena 2, Oftana 0. Lebanon (96) — Saoud 27, Gyokchyan 21, Darwich 19, Zeinoun 14, Mansour 6, Khouiery 6, Hardidian 3, Khalil 0, Mezher 0. Quarterscores: 25-19, 53-41, 82-64, 107-96.