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GILAS GOES FOR ALL THE MARBLES

GILAS Pilipinas has settled one score. Another awaits.

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The Filipinos can stop a string of six straight losses to Iran when they clash Sunday for all the marbles of the 27th FIBA Asia Championship at the Mall of Asia Arena.

By simply reaching the winner-take-all finals both teams have booked seats to next year’s FIBA World Cup in Spain and the 7:30 p.m. match is just the proverbial icing on the cake.

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Just don’t tell that to Gilas coach Chot Reyes.

“In one of my earlier interviews, I said our objective was to win a medal but our dream was to win it all,” said Reyes following his team’s 86-79 win over Korea last Saturday, ending the Philippines’ string of losses to the latter and pushing the Nationals to its first Asian finals in 40 years.

“So we have achieved our objective, now the dream is at hand,” added Reyes. “So we’re going to go all out. Again, they have to carry us out of that court tomorrow.”

It will not be an easy task, more so since Marcus Douthit is a doubtful starter due to the right shin that was injured in the quarterfinal game against Qatar and again got kneed by Lee Jong-Hyun midway in the second quarter last Saturday.

Douthit asked to be subbed out and did not return to the match.

“It’s really bad. He couldn’t even walk out with us. It got hit in the game versus Qatar, and then today, in that drive, it got hit in the exact same spot. So it’s very swollen, it’s black and blue,” related Reyes.

And then there’s Iran.

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Since copping fifth place in their continental debut in 1973 the Iranians have only become the consistent threat it is now by topping the 2007 and 2009 editions.

With the dethronement of China, Iran is now poised to cop its third crown and has all the tools, as is widely believed, to get the job done.

Led by former NBA center Hammed Haddadi, versatile forward Samad Bahrami, heady playmaker Mehdi Kamrani and other consistent scorers in Hamed Afagh and Oshin Sahakian the Iranians have won all their eight games thus far in double digits.

Gilas also has its threats in Jayson ‘Castro’ William, Marc Pingris, Ranidel de Ocampo, Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood and Jimmy Alapag and is sure to get additional energy from the thousands sure to pack the Pasay City venue and the millions outside it.

Another key which could point Gilas to a sixth title in this its first finals in the biennial tourney in 27 years is its immeasurable fighting heart.

The remaining World Cup slot for the region will be contested by Korea and Chinese Taipei in a contest that starts 5 p.m. (NC)

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