Iran brought back 7-foot-2 star center Hamed Haddadi from a one-day rest and derailed Gilas Pilipinas’ title bid in the 2015 Jones Cup with a 74-65 win at the Xinchuang Gymnasium here yesterday.
Haddadi played extended minutes after sitting out their game against USA Select-Overtake the previous day, coming through with game highs of 22 points and 15 rebounds to power the Iranians past the Filipinos in an exciting duel of FIBA Asia fierce rivals.
The Iranians, in the process, boosted their Jones Cup title aspiration with a 5-1 win-loss card while dimming the Filipinos’ own quest with a second loss against three wins.
Coaches of both sides played down the outcome of the game, though, saying the true battle will be in Changsha, China late this month.
Iranian coach Dirk Bauermann and Gilas mentor Tab Baldwin agreed the outcome of the game can’t be used as a gauge to their rematch in the FIBA Asia meet, saying both squads will be better in the Changsha joust.
Bauermann mentioned the absence of Andray Blatche in the Gilas lineup while Baldwin cited Samad Bahrami as another major force they have to deal with in Changsha.
Bahrami, for the longest time now considered the deadliest all-around player in Asia, is not present here, opting to heal a minor injury in Tehran.
But just Haddadi, forwards Hamed Afagh and Mohammad Jamshidi, and guards Farrid Aslani and Mahdi Kamrani proved enough to carry the Iranians against to another win against Gilas.
Iranians have been dominating their matchup, with the Filipinos last winning against the tough Middle East power also here during the 2012 edition of this annual invitational meet.
“The most important thing is to keep improving and keep getting better,” said Bauermann, adding five to six teams are capable of winning the FIBA Asia Championship.
He pointed to China as the top favorite but didn’t discount the capability of his team, Gilas Pilipinas and South Korea to make a successful run in Changsha. He pointed to Lebanon, Chinese Taipei, Qatar and Japan as dark horses.
For Baldwin, it’s just a game “between two teams trying to prepare for an important tournament in couples of week.”
He said they’re far from a form competitive to win the championship in China, and it’s evident as they played catch-up basketball against Iran almost all throughout.
Down by four at 61-65 with 3:41 left, the Filipinos eventually yielded the game as they went scoreless in the next three minutes of the game.
Jamshidi fired away a trey then Haddadi towered for a ham, touching off a vicious nine-to-nothing run to finish off the Filipinos.
An anxious moment for the Filipinos was Terrence Romeo hurting his left ankle on a scramble in the last play in the third quarter.
He limped out of the floor and was attended by Gilas physical therapist Dexter Aseron. Ice was applied on his injury then he was able to return to the game with only 2:43left to play.
Asi Taulava, back for another Jones Cup stint at 42, had some bright moments in his matchup with Haddadi, leading Gilas with 12 points and eight rebounds.
JC INtal and Jayson castro fired away two three-points each and both finished with a total of 10 markers. (SB)
Iran 74 – Haddadi 22, Afagh 13, Farid 9, Jamshidi 9, Kamrani 7, Mohammad 5, Davarpan 4, Davari 2, Kardoust 2
Gilas – Taulava 12, Intal 10, Castro 10, Romeo 8, Tautuaa 7, Abueva 6, Pingris 4, Hontiveros 3, Norwood 2, Ganuelas Rosser 2, Thoss 1, De Ocampo 0
Quartescores: 17-14; 34-31; 54-47; 74-65