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Mon 22 July 2024

Brazil ends Kai-less PH’s Olympic basketball dream

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The Brazil men’s national basketball team erupted in the second half, relentlessly attacking the Philippines’ handicapped interior defense to end Gilas Pilipinas’ Olympic dream, 71-60, on Saturday at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament semifinals in Riga, Latvia.

Employing halfcourt pressing and quick double team on Justin Brownlee in the second half, Brazil had a 14-0 third quarter explosion for a 41-33 lead, with the Philippines scoring after six mminutesp

Despite losing 7’3” Kai Sotto due to a chest injury sustained from a Goga Bitadze dive last Thursday, Gilas had another dream start, erecting a 30-19 lead midway in the second quarter with Brownlee scoring 12 first half points.

However, ageless veteran and former LA Laker Marcelo Huertas and mobile big man and former Toronto Raptors mainstay Bruno Caboclo towed Brazil toward an insurmountable 67-51 lead by attacking June Mar Fajardo’s drop coverage, with Huertas shooting off the mid-range and Huertas on inside attacks.

“Huertas hurt us hard coming off the ball screens and pulling up, doing nice things,” commented Philippine coach Tim Cone on the 19-year national.

“I think we just kind off panicked a little bit. We started doing a lot on one-on-ones. We didn’t move the ball like we normally do,” he added.

It did not help that Brownlee had his worst game in his international career, scoring only on a single three-point basket midway in the third quarter, finishing with 15 points off a poor 31 per cent shooting clip.

“We don’t want to make excuses, but losing Kai was big for us because it just took away our depth in the frontline and forced June Mar Fajardo to have to overplay minutes,” Cone explained, referring to his prized center who has averaged 11 points, 1.5 block, and 60 per cent from the field versus Latvia and Georgia.

Dwight Ramos and CJ Perez had 13 and 10 points, respectively, while Fajardo had a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Caboclo led Brazil with 15 points and 11 boards while Huertas had 13 points and seven assists.

World number 37 Philippines will come home with a historic 89-80 win against world number six Latvia, a narrow 94-96 loss versus world number 23 Georgia, and this sizeable loss against the world number 12 and three-time Olympic bronze medalists.

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