By REYNALD MAGALLON
The redemption story is heading to its final chapter all thanks to Justin Brownlee.
The Gilas Pilipinas naturalized player returned to his old, deadly self and exploded for 34 points as the Philippines makes it back to the gold medal round after ousting defending champion Indonesia, 84-76, in the semifinal of the 5-on-5 men’s basketball competitions in the Southeast Asian Games on Monday, May 15.
Huffing and puffing due to the humid conditions inside the Elephant Hall 2 at the Morodok Techo National Stadium, Brownlee mustered all his strength to spearhead a blistering 20-3 finishing kick for the Filipinos.
The Ginebra resident import actually dropped 15 of his total output in the final frame, including a personal 8-0 stretch during the telling run to help Gilas exorcise the ghost of its loss against Indonesia last edition.
Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser provided support with 13 points while Arvin Tolentino added 11. Marcio Lassiter and Jerom Lastimosa also contributed nine apiece.
With the Nationals trailing for the most part of the contest, a picture of anxiety was painted all over the Filipino fans inside the venue as Gilas was still down by seven, 71-64, with 7:04 left in the final frame.
Marcio Lassiter nailed a booming triple before Brownlee scored on an and-1 play in what turned out to be the spark to the massive uprising after cutting the lead down to just one, 70-71.
Indonesia, though, found an answer with Andakara Prastawa Dhyaksa sinking a free throw off a technical foul called on Tolentino due to flopping and a huge floater from Kaleb Ramot Gemilang to restore a four-point lead.
That was when Brownlee unleashed his own run, drilling back-to-back triples before scoring on a layup. He then found a wide open Ganuelas Rosser for s short stab, stretching Gilas lead, 80-74, with 1:41 left in the game.
Lester Prosper led the way for Indonesia with 26 points – 21 of which he posted in the first half when he punished the Gilas defense both inside the paint and from three-point territory.
With the win, Gilas is also arranging a rematch against Cambodia – the only blemish to Gilas record in the group stage. That loss also left a bitter taste in Gilas’ mouth after Cambodian head coach Harry Savaya called for a late timeout when the game was already over and settled.
Indonesia, on the other hand, faces up against Thailand in the bronze medal match after the latter fell to hosts, 78-66, in their own semifinal affair early in the day.