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IRAN RECLAIMS JONES CUP CROWN

The Jones Cup crown that Gilas Pilipinas failed to defend is now back in the hands of Iran.

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Iran veteran stars Hamed Haddadi, Samad Bahrami, Oshin Sahakian and Hamed Afagh all went to work as they disposed of host Chinese Taipei, 72-67, to clinch the 2013 Jones Cup championship at the Hsinchuang Stadium in New Taipei City Saturday.

So dominant was the west Asian power that it put the wraps on the crown with one play date left in the one-round-robin competition among nine teams.

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Through the first eight days of hostilities, Iran was the only unbeaten team at 7-0 with South Korea at second at 6-1, followed by Egypt (5-3), Taipei A (4-3), US (4-3), Jordan (3-4), Lebanon (2-5), Taipei B (1-6) and Japan (0-7).

The Iranians are assured of a top-podium finish whatever happens at the close of the tourney Sunday. A tie with Korea will pose no problem since Iran has a superior quotient.

Nonetheless, Iran is expected to complete a mighty sweep versus a dispirited Lebanon side. Korea plays Taipei A, the US battles Jordan and Taipei B slugs it out with Japan in the other games.

The other matches in the penultimate day saw the US trample Lebanon, 109-66; Jordan hurdle Japan, 74-65; and Egypt top Taipei B, 81-69.

Haddadi, Bahrami, Sahakian and Afagh all delivered double-digit outputs as the Iranians sustained their brilliant showing that spoke well of their readiness to compete in the 27th FIBA Asia Championship in Manila.

Haddadi collected 17 points and 11 rebounds while Sahakian put in 14 markers as Iran reclaimed the crown it lost to the Philippines last year.

Before Gilas Pilipinas ended a long Jones Cup title drought, Iran reigned supreme in the Taipei international championship from 2009-2011.

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Their highly anticipated Jones Cup rematch didn’t happen as tournament organizers withdrew their invitation to Gilas Pilipinas due to diplomatic row stemming from the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman on disputed waters.

The two teams are tipped to cross paths in the knockout stage of the FIBA Asia Championship slated Aug. 1-11 at the MOA Arena in Pasay and the Ninoy Aquino Stadium in Manila. (SB)

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