Iran triumphs over Gilas Phl
Joey Villar, Nelson Beltran (The Philippine Star) - August 12, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Gilas Pilipinas tried to ride the momentum of its momentous win over South Korea a day earlier but the Filipinos were outsized and outgunned by powerhouse Iran, which went on to win the 27th FIBA-Asia Championship with an 85-71 romp at the Mall of Asia Arena last night.

Cheered on by another capacity crowd, led by President Noynoy Aquino and Vice President Jejomar Binay, the Filipinos stayed with the seasoned Iranians, headed by man mountain 7-foot-2 Hamed Haddadi three -fourths of the way but succumbed to the rigors of their storied win over the Koreans Saturday and ended up visibly spent in energy and artillery.

The Filipinos’ relentless quartercourt offensive so evident against the Koreans came in trickles and far in between and the Iranians methodically pulled away behind playmaker Mahdi Kamrany and Haddadi.

Still, Gilas Pilipinas, whose lack in size and height was compounded with the sidelining of the injured naturalized Marcus Douthit, felt like a victor for having accomplished its main objective to make it back to the World Cup in a long, long time.

Gilas Pilipinas and the Filipino crowd stood proud and content holding a ticket to the 2014 FIBA World Cup plus the silver medal as first runner-up at the conclusion of 11 days of fierce cage battles in the Asian conclave.

The Filipinos failed to win it all, falling short in their bid to reach the apex of glory in this Asian meet as they weren’t able to break down the towering Persian wall.

“We lost the championship match but we’re still happy. We achieved what we set out to do in this tournament,” said Jayson Castro.

“Obviously, we wanted to get the gold, but without Marcus Douthit, it’s really difficult to play a team with tremendous size, talent, and good coaching,” said Gilas coach Chot Reyes.

“But I’m proud of my players. We fought them tooth and nail. Who would have thought Japeth (Aguilar) and Junmar (Fajardo) would fight that way,” Reyes also said.

It was silver that glittered like gold, the most precious mint the country pocketed since the NCC Phl team’s title conquest in Ipoh, Malaysia in 1986.

Gilas breathed down Iran’s neck almost throughout with a methodical halfcourt offense and a physical helping defense but couldn’t get into real groove, time and again fended off by 7-foot-2 behemoth Hamed Haddadi.

Iran, with its battle-tested crew that also features star guard Mahdi Kamrany and combo forwards Nikkhah Bahrami and Oshin Sahakian, built double-digit spreads in the final quarter and went on to reclaim the Asian crown it lost to China in Wuhan last year.

A team that has been together for six years now, the Iranians went unbeaten here, proving head and shoulder above the field.

The Iranians are now three-time Asian champs with earlier victories in Tokushima in 2007 and Tianjin in 2009.

They are to make their second World Cup appearance in Spain next year.

But the Filipinos gave the Iranians some fits with a brave stand anchored on outside artillery and on Castro’s devil-may-care penetrations.

Gilas definitely could have made it tougher for Iran if not for Douthit’s ouster in the semis against Korea Saturday.

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