One day after reclaiming world-class status, the short-handed Gilas Pilipinas national five set out for a mop-up job to crown itself as Asia’s finest.
And the Filipinos—playing minus the injured 6-foot-10, naturalized center Marcus Douthit—fell way off the mark despite trying absolutely hard in front of 19,898 fans that included the country’s Chief Executive and its foremost modern-day boxing star.
Seven-foot-2 NBA veteran Hamed Haddadi was too much to handle and Nikkhah Bahrami proved too slippery as Iran turned back Gilas, 85-71, to win the 27th Fiba Asia Championship with an eight-game sweep last night at Mall of Asia Arena.
With Douthit riding the bench, the Filipinos were a little easier to handle as Iran won its third Asian title in the last four editions by going undefeated in nine games.
The loss was the second straight for the Filipinos in their last three clashes with Iran, with the only victory happening last year during a magical stint in the William Jones Cup in Taipei, where Haddadi wasn’t with the team.
Iran bounced back last September in the Stankovic Cup which it won in Tokyo. The Iranians also came into this 15-nation tournament fresh off their victory in this year’s Jones Cup.
Still, the Philippines can call their stint in this tournament a very successful, rewarding one after that 86-79 triumph over the Koreans—the Filipinos’ first since 1986—that put them back in the world championship next year in Spain.
Team Philippines, which last played in the world championship in 1978, trailed by a mere point at halftime, 34-35, despite hitting just 58 percent from the free-throw line and making just 5-of-19 attempts from beyond the arc.
The last time the Filipinos led the Iranians came in the second half when Jason Castro hit two free throws for 36-35.
After that, Iran’s enormous talent on all fronts simply came to fore.
The Iranians shot an astounding 61 percent from two-point range as Haddadi worked practically unchallenged underneath. He came away with 29 points, 16 rebounds, the center’s spot in the Asian First Five and the tournament Most Valuable Player honors.
Castro, who led the Filipinos with 18 points, also made it to the mythical five as point guard. Chinese Taipei’s Lin Chih-chieh and young Korean shooter Kim Min-goo joined the elite list as forwards. Oshin Sahakian, who had 12 points, was awarded the power forward’s spot.
South Korea earlier claimed the last ticket to the world championship by crushing Chinese Taipei, 75-57, to place third.
In the battle for fifth place, defending champion China bested Qatar, 96-85.
IRAN 85—Haddadi 29, Bahrami 19, Kamrani 15, Sahakian 12, Afagh 4, Sohrabnehad 2, Kardoust 2, Davoudichegani 2, Arghavan 0.
GILAS PILIPINAS 71—Castro 18, Alapag 13, De Ocampo 9, Tenorio 8, Chan 7, Aguilar 4, Pingris 3, Norwood 3, Fonacier 3, David 2, Fajardo 1.
Quarters: 17-15, 35-34, 62-53, 85-71