Gilas Pilipinas clinched its first Asian Games semifinal berth in 21 years by holding off a hard-fighting Iran, 84-83, at the Zhejiang University Zijingang Gymnasium in China.
After a planned 8-minute outing against Qatar, Justin Brownlee took advantage of his rest time and burst for 36 points, 16 in the first quarter and 15 in the third, on 5-of-7 three-pointers, to go with 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
Gilas led by as many as 21 points in the third quarter, 62-41, and by 17 at the start of the fourth quarter, 71-54, but Iran staged a stunning 22-7 comeback, cutting the lead to a single possession, 78-76, off a Mohammadsina Vahedi basket at the 3:35 mark.
Vahedi, in an otherworldly state, added a three-pointer in the final two minutes before somehow moving Iran ahead, 81-80, on free throws at the 1:33 mark.
Veterans Fajardo and Brownlee, on the other hand, were collected enough to chip in two critical layups in the final minute of regulation, 84-83, as Iran then let Gilas’ Chris Newsome run out the clock off its final foul to give.
In the nail-biting conclusion, Fajardo finished with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists, while fellow PBA MVP Scottie Thompson scored 11 points, 6 boards, and 2 assists.
Gilas will now meet China in the semifinals for a spot in the gold-medal match.