Gilas Pilipinas finally tasted victory in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, thanks to a sensational performance by NBA star Jordan Clarkson. The Utah Jazz guard erupted for 34 points, including 24 in the third quarter, to lead the Philippines to a 96-75 win over China on Saturday night at the Lapu-Lapu Sports Complex.

Clarkson, who was playing in his first World Cup for Gilas, showcased his scoring prowess as he made 12 of 18 shots from the field, including seven of 10 from beyond the arc. He also had six rebounds, four assists, and two steals in 32 minutes of action.

The former NBA Sixth Man of the Year winner single-handedly turned the tide in favor of Gilas in the third period, where he drilled five three-pointers and scored more than half of his team’s points. Gilas outscored China 34-11 in the quarter and turned a one-point halftime deficit into a 22-point lead entering the fourth.

China, which was also winless in four games prior to facing Gilas, could not recover from Clarkson’s onslaught and succumbed to its fifth straight loss. The Chinese team shot only 38.5 percent from the field and committed 19 turnovers.

Gilas coach Tab Baldwin praised Clarkson for his leadership and brilliance on the court, saying that he was a “game-changer” for the national team.

“He’s a special player. He’s not only a great scorer, but he’s also a great teammate. He makes everyone around him better. He’s been a joy to coach and a joy to watch,” Baldwin said.

Clarkson was not the only bright spot for Gilas, as four other players scored in double figures. Rhenz Abando had 14 points on four of six shooting from three-point range, Kai Sotto chipped in 12 points and seven rebounds, Dwight Ramos added 11 points and six assists, and Ange Kouame contributed 10 points and nine boards.

Gilas finished its World Cup campaign with a 1-4 record, good for fourth place in Group F. Despite failing to advance to the second round, Gilas showed improvement and competitiveness in its games against powerhouse teams like Serbia, France, and Argentina.

Clarkson said he was proud of his teammates for their effort and resilience throughout the tournament.

“It was an honor to play for Gilas and represent our country. We fought hard every game and we never gave up. We showed the world what Filipino basketball is all about,” Clarkson said.