Gilas Pilipinas World Cup bid in peril
A young, shorthanded Iran crew played with poise and confidence in the stretch and handed the Philippine team and its loyal throng a 78-70 defeat that put the Filipinos’ chances of advancing to the 2019 World Cup proper in serious trouble.
With its two foremost international stars not making the trip here, the Iranians leaned on their future stars to pull off the victory before a dumbfounded Mall of Asia Arena crowd and formally qualify for the global championship slated in China.
“We needed to show everyone that Iranian basketball has big potential,” Mohammad Jamshidi, a former Meralco import in the Philippine Basketball Association, said after shooting 16 points in the fourth period. He was referring to their effort churned out sans Hamed Haddadi and Nikkhah Bahrami.
“It was a big game for both (teams),” added Jamshidi, who finished with 26 points to lead all shooters for the night. “To be honest, there was pressure on us, a lot, after our [bad] game against Australia.”
The Iranians were coming off a 29-point loss at the hands of the Aussies on Friday but didn’t show traces of that rout, playing heads-up all night long to win for the seventh time in 10 Group F matches and lock a berth to China.
The Filipinos, after failing in two homestands, dropped to a level 5-5 and coupled by an 86-70 win by Japan over Kazakhstan at Toyama City Gymnasium earlier, got knocked out of a third place tie with the Japanese (6-4).
“We thought we had a chance to win the game, holding small leads [most of the night],” Team PH coach Yeng Guiao said. “But toward the endgame, I thought it was the lack of our maturity [that doomed us].
“The guys tried their best, but we made some bad decisions in the end.”
Jayson Castro returned to international play by shooting 19 points and Christian Standhardinger added 17 for the Filipinos, who also lost to Kazakhstan, 88-92, on Friday.
Australia, New Zealand and South Korea are the other early Asian qualifiers.
Only three slots are left to be contested, with the Filipinos still to play two away games—in Qatar and Kazakhstan—in February next year. They would need nothing less than a sweep and hope that other bidders drop some of theirs to advance without a hitch. Only the top three teams from each group and the best fourth-placed squad will qualify.
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