Unfinished business: Reyes hopes Gilas defies tall odds vs Iran
By Alder Almo Updated Sunday August 11, 2013 - 6:10am

Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes has an unfinished business left against Iran. He may have lost Marcus Douthit to injury last night but he has the most powerful sixth man - the crowd - something which he did not have in his first meeting with Iran in 2007. Photo courtesy of FIBA Asia

MANILA, Philippines - Despite punching a ticket to the FIBA World Cup, Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes still has unfinished business left.

Standing on the path to his dream of bringing the Philippines back on top of the Asian basketball is the very first team, which dealt him his first loss and perhaps, the most heartbreaking in his international coaching career.  

His most awaited rematch with Iran at 7:30 pm tonight at the MOA Arena bears more weight with the winner taking the crown as Asia's best.

Back in 2007, Reyes' dream of an Olympic stint for the country was washed away by a tough debut loss to Iran then coached by now one of his allies Rajko Toroman in the so-called Group of Death.

Reyes and his all-pro team were humbled and wound up ninth.

"In 2007, it was a really really bad experience where we didn't even get to the quarterfinals," Reyes told reporters in an emotional post-game press conference. "And I had really said that that was it for me."

His fall signaled the rise of Iran as an Asian power winning the FIBA Asia crown twice.  

But little did he know that he'll have his chance again. Between 2007 and 2013, he manically worked his way back on top of the Philippine basketball winning four championships with Talk n Text in the PBA.

And now, he finally got the job done leading the country back to the World Cup after 35 long years of absence.

But the feat doesn't mean they will just show up tonight.

Not against Iran. Not in front of an expected huge home crowd.

The core of that 2007 Iran team has remained intact and has been solid in this tournament winning all of their eight games in double digits and not to mention sweeping the Jones Cup, which Gilas Pilipinas failed to defend this year following a political row with Taiwan.

After breaking the Korean jinx with an epic come-from-behind 86-79 victory Saturday night, Reyes had to compose himself quickly and not let the moment carry them away and forget about Iran.

"I wanted to have a quick huddle with the players [after winning over South Korea]. I told them congratulations," Reyes said. "We have achieved our objective, now our dream is at hand."

But just like against Korea, the odds are again stacked against them especially without Marcus Douthit, who is doubtful to play after aggravating his calf injury in the second quarter Saturday night.

"It's really bad. He couldn't even walk out with us. It got hit in the game versus Qatar, and then today (Saturday), in that drive, it got hit in the exact same spot. So it's very swollen, it's black and blue," Reyes said of his starting center, which he had hoped to be his answer to Iran's 7-2 former NBA player Hamed Hadadi.  

But Douthit is rallying his team to not let this opportunity slip off their hands even without him on the court.

"Well, we might as well," Douthit told Philstar.com after Gilas epic win over Korea.  "We're now here, why give up now? It's still a big goal for us to win it all."

"We really don't know how it's going to work out. But you know, we have Junemar Fajardo," Reyes said. "We'll see."

GIlas Pilipinas has thrived with adversities even before the tournament started.

And the most passionate team has to find a way to stand a chance against the most complete and the strongest team in the tournament.

He may have lost his anchor in the middle but Reyes has something which he didn't have the first time he met Iran in 2007 - the most powerful "sixth man" to count on to get the unfinished business done.  

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Saturday, August 10, 2013 @ MOA Arena
5:45 PM - Semifinal Round
Iran vs Chinese Taipei
8:00 PM - Semifinal Round
Philippines vs Korea