They go for it tonight, making their last hurrah in the basketball showpiece against an Asian team that’s been giving them problems in the past – Iran.
Gilas goes all in against Iran
Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - September 8, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The 2019 FIBA World Cup has seen nothing but struggle and heartaches for the underwhelming Gilas Pilipinas.

Four games, four confidence-deflating setbacks.

But as gloomy as things are, the Filipinos still have one final chance to salvage national pride.

They go for it tonight, making their last hurrah in the basketball showpiece against an Asian team that’s been giving them problems in the past – Iran.

“We’ll try to get a win on Sunday,” said naturalized player Andray Blatche, bracing for a dogfight with the Hamed Haddadi-led Iranians in culminating Group N classification match at Beijing’s Wukesong Sport Arena.

“It’s our last chance to salvage something so we’ll put in all the efforts,” said coach Yeng Guiao, whose squad is out to put a brighter ending to a dull campaign marred by blowouts to Italy and Serbia, a botched job in a winnable game against Angola, and a 19-point drubbing from lower-ranked Tunisia in Friday’s classification.

Gilas found solace in Blatche’s red-hot performance in the final canto of that 67-86 loss to Tunisia, where he scored 14 of his 24 points and showed a lot more of the efficient big man who carried Gilas in the past.

“He got his rhythm in the fourth quarter, at least,  and that’s a good sign going to our last game against Iran,” said Guiao.

“I hope my performance would carry over into our next game,” said Blatche.

The 6-foot-11 center drew confidence from the fact that Gilas had already beaten the Iranians before, in the second round of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in Changsa, 87-73.

“We’re familiar with Iran. The last time I went up against them, we actually got a win so we’re hoping to get one tomorrow (tonight),” said Blatche.

The 33-year-old Blatche wasn’t around, though, when Gilas and Iran last faced off in the Round 2 of the Asian qualifiers for this World Cup. Iran swept that home-and-away duel,  81-73, and 78-70.

“Iran is a strong team, They’re tall and we’ve been having problems with that here. They’re a really strong team as they brought their superstars and their next generation players,” said Giuao.

Foremost is the 7-foot-2 Haddadi, who averages 13.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, and five assists for the Iranians, who broke a three-game slump in the China world meet with a 71-62 win over Angola last Friday.

“With Haddadi, it’s important to draw his defense out because when he’s in the middle, he’s too intimidating. We practiced a scheme and hopefully it works out,” said Guiao.

It’s also vital that the smaller Gilas squad finds its range from the perimeter against Iran’s giants.

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