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Iran scrambles past sputtering Gilas five

By: - Sports Editor / @ftjochoaINQ
/ 02:19 AM September 26, 2014
GILAS’ Paul Lee gets away from Iran’sMohammad Jamshidijafarabadi for a layup in Thursday’s match at the AsianGames in Incheon. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

GILAS’ Paul Lee gets away from Iran’sMohammad Jamshidijafarabadi for a layup in Thursday’s match at the AsianGames in Incheon. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

INCHEON, South Korea—In a testy, physical match between Asia’s top two basketball squads, Iran managed to squeeze enough juice out of its banged-up stars to turn back Gilas Pilipinas, 68-63, Thursday afternoon in the 17th Asian Games at Hwaseong Sports Complex gymnasium here.

The result still ushered both teams into the quarterfinal round, with the Philippines flying in on the wings of a bold vow.

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“We will beat them when we need to,” said Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes.

In front of a wildly animated Filipino cheering section, it was Iran that felt the urgency to win a virtually no-bearing match, with Mahdi Kamrani bucking an injured ankle and Samad Bahrami flashing the form that drew him an NBA invite to anchor a run by the Asian champions in the final 7:27, where Gilas Pilipinas could not make a single field goal.

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Down 53-60, Kamrani bunched six points while Bahrami knocked in a basket and used veteran guile to draw fouls for the cushion free throws in a 15-3 run that closed the game.

“[Kamrani] was a little bit injured but we know he has quality,” said Iran coach Mehmed Becirovic. “In [crucial] moments, he took responsibility and changed the game.”

Kamrani, who had only six points entering the fourth period, nailed a three-pointer to cap his personal cluster in the fourth, giving Iran a 61-60 edge. When the Philippines struck back to take a two-point lead, Bahrami took over, nailing a split and two free throws to sandwich a Paul Lee miss for a 66-63 Iran lead in the last 22 seconds.

Gilas had one more chance to tie the game, but Iran homed in on every Filipino who could nail a triple, allowing only Marcus Douthit an open look. Douthit took a three and missed, setting Hamed Haddadi up for the game’s final two points.

“It was the only shot we had for a reason—it was the only shot Iran would give us,” said Reyes. “He shouldn’t have shot that. He should’ve waited to construct a better attempt. We weren’t sufficiently trained to look for a good shot in that situation.”

The loss has little implication on the gold-medal bids of both teams. Iran and Gilas still advanced to the semifinals. And even the bracketing won’t matter. The Philippines’ choices were powerhouse China or host South Korea.

But the quarterfinals and the brackets were hardly a motivation for either team.

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“I’m upset because we lost a game we should have won,” Reyes said. “If we had taken care of business, we would’ve won this game. What makes it more embarrassing is that the fans came here from all over Korea to watch us play. They deserved a win.”

For a while, it looked like the Filipinos would get it.

After crawling out of double-digit holes in the first half, the Nationals fought back hard, with LA Tenorio hitting a triple that gave Gilas Pilipinas its first taste of the lead, 44-43, and Gary David finding his stroke to help the team erect a 51-44 lead, 2:50 left in the third.

Marc Pingris later helped Gilas take a 60-53 edge before Iran uncorked its final push.

Aiding Iran’s attack was the fact that Douthit sat on the bench for a huge slice of the fourth period, leaving June Mar Fajardo to battle Iran’s bigs in the crucial stretch.

The Philippines led for the last time on Gabe Norwood’s free throws, 63-61, until their guns fell silent and Bahrami took over.

“Every game I play, I try to play the highest level,” said Bahrami. “After the game, the only thing that matters is winning.”

The scores:

IRAN 68—Bahrami 23, Haddadi 18, Kamrani 12, Arghavan 6, Yakchilidehkordi 3, Jafarabadi 3, Afagh 2, Mashayekhi 1, Zangeneh 0, Sahakian 0.

GILAS PILIPINAS 63—Lee 11, Douthit 10, Tenorio 10, Norwood 9, De Ocampo 6, Pingris 5, David 4, Chan 3, Dillinger 3, Fajardo 2, Alapag 0, Aguilar 0.

Quarters: 29-17, 36-34, 50-53, 68-63

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TAGS: 17th Asian Games, Gilas Pilipinas
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