FIBA Asia Cup: Iran reasserts mastery over Gilas Pilipinas

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Manila, Philippines-Japeth Aguilar of Philippines challenges the defense of Hamed Haddadi of Iran during the 27th FIBA final between Iran and Philippines held at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, south of Manila, on 11 August 2013. (Czeasar Dancel/NPPA Images)
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(UPDATED) Different tournament, same result.

With up-and-coming cagers Mohamad Jamshidi and Behnam Yakhchali providing the offensive firepower, defending champion Iran sustained its mastery over Gilas Pilipinas Friday night 76-55 to advance to the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup titular showdown at the Wuhan gymnasium in Wuhan, China.

Even without the presence of ace wingman Nikkhah Bahrami and top guard Mehdi Kamrani plus a relatively so-so outing from intimidating slotman Hamed Haddadi, the Iranians still proved too much for the Nationals, complementing their solid defensive stance with the combined explosion from Jamshidi and Yakhchali in carving the dominant victory.

The 6-foot-6 Jamshidi, 23, led all scorers with 19 points, 14 of them coming in the opening half, while the 18-year-old Yakhchali pumped in all but two of his 18 markers, spiked by four triples, in a brilliant offensive showing in the third canto where the Iranians enjoyed their biggest lead at 20 and completely kept the Nationals at bay.

Mainstays Ranidel de Ocampo, Gary David and LA Tenorio chipped in 11 points apiece but they still could not prevent the Nationals from falling prey anew to the Iranians, who also defeated them with ease in the gold medal round of the FIBA Asia cage championships in Manila last year.

Taking a toll on the Nationals—who topped the four-team Group B in the preliminaries and survived a tall Indian crew 70-66 in the quarterfinals last Thursday—was the early foul trouble of naturalized import Marcus Douthit, who committed two quick fouls inside the first three minutes and was forced to sit out the majority of the opening half. Their failure to address the Iranians’ impenetrable zone defense also added to Gilas’ woes.

The Nationals were also minus-nine in the rebounding battle and even allowed the Iranians to turn eight costly turnovers into 11 big points, most of them in the pivotal half.

With the PH side focused on containing the 7-foot-2 Haddadi, Jamshidi made the Nationals pay as he fired on all cylinders and ignited an 8-2 run that allowed the Iranians to take an 11-point cushion at the break.
Then Yakhchali joined the offensive fray in a strong offensive showing in the third, accounting for four big triples while helping Iran built their biggest lead at 55-35.

David provided the Nationals a glimmer of hope when he racked up five unanswered markers and seven of the next 12 points that cut their deficit at 14 with less than 30 seconds left in the third.

But Yakhchali doused cold water on a looming PH fightback when he scored a buzzer-beating triple to end the third, enabling the Iranians to restore order before methodically finishing off their foes in the last 10 minutes.

Iran will face Chinese Taipei in the final after the Taiwanese defeated host China, 84-73, in the other semifinal.

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