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Sports

Cone says Brownlee lifeblood of Gilas

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
Cone says Brownlee lifeblood of Gilas
Justin Brownlee
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Rust and all, Justin Brownlee already made things happen for Gilas Pilipinas in its 94-64 victory over Hong Kong on the road the other night.

He paced the triumphant visitors in scoring with 16 points while accounting for seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals plus other influential acts not reflected in the stats sheet.

Not bad for someone who just picked up a basketball again after spending over three months on hiatus.

“He really struggled in the beginning of the game. He hasn’t played a game in like four months so he had a lot of rust to shake off,” said Gilas coach Tim Cone of his prized naturalized player.

Brownlee served suspension from November to February after testing positive for carboxy-THC at the end of the Asian Games in China.  Thursday’s FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers outing in HK was Brownlee’s first since leading Gilas past Jordan in the Asiad gold-medal match, 70-60, back on Oct. 6 last year.

In an effort to get Brownlee to break in and warm up, Cone left him on the floor longer than usual.

“It was great to see him get his rhythm in the second half and be the Justin that we know,” said Cone, who gave JB 27 minutes of action.

“We’re obviously willing to be patient for him and we know how good he is, how great a teammate he is. He’s the lifeblood of this team and so we’re happy that he’s back.”

And that’s bad news for Gilas’ next opponent, Chinese Taipei, tomorrow over at the PhilSports Arena. The Filipinos host a Taiwanese side coming off a 69-89 home loss to New Zealand.

“We think he will play better against Taiwan and as we go forward. He has that history, he has that pedigree already,” said Cone of Brownlee, who helped him win six PBA titles before their epic Asian Games gold medal.

Meanwhile, Cone lauded the big group of Filipinos that made Hong Kong’s Tsuen Wan Stadium more like a home venue for them.

“I thought they were the reason we came out in the second half with a couple of nice plays. They really cheered hard and it kinda lifted us in spirits and gave us momentum, kinda fed our runaway in the third,” said Cone, whose crew created separation  from HK with a 30-9 salvo in the penultimate period.

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