MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas ran into the best team in Asia and wasn’t able to continue its unbeaten run, losing 76-55, in the semifinals of the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan, China.
The loss relegates Gilas to the battle for third place and negates any chances of getting an automatic berth in the 2015 FIBA Asia Men’s Championships.
The game started pretty close as Gilas was able to stick with the Iranians, who missed the services of key players Samad Nikkhah Bahrami, Mahdi Kamrani, and Hamed Afagh, among others.
Behind the scoring of Paul Lee, LA Tenorio, and Ranidel De Ocampo, the Pinoys stayed within striking distance of Iran for the entire first quarter.
That changed late in the second period, however, when Iran flexed its muscles and erected its first double-digit lead, 36-26, after a Hamed Haddadi basket. The WABA side eventually took an 11-point lead into the break.
The World Cup-bound Iranians didn’t let up when play resumed, turning to young guns Behnam Yakhchali and Mohammad Jamshidi to continuously frustrate the Filipinos.
Team Melli’s wingmen did the majority of the damage. Yakhchali, just 19 years old, and Jamshidi, 22, spearheaded Iran’s attack in the third canto, erecting a substantial 55-35 lead late in the quarter before settling for a 17-point cushion heading into the final ten minutes.
Gilas would bring the deficit down to as low as 13 points but the Filipinos couldn’t catch up as they lose to the Iranians for the third straight time in FIBA Asia competitions.
The last time Gilas beat Iran in a FIBA Asia event was four years ago when Gilas’ first iteration upset Iran in the quarterfinals of the 2010 FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup in Lebanon.
Gilas faltered in many departments, getting outmatched in rebounds, assists, steals, fast break points, and points off turnovers. Gilas was able to take care of the ball relatively well with just 8 turnovers, but their shooting went south after halftime. The Pinoys shot 14% from long distance and just 33% overall from the field. In contrast, Iran made 7/20 threes (35%) and connected on 42% of their field goal attempts.
It also didn’t help that naturalized player Marcus Douthit got into foul trouble early, forcing coach Chot Reyes to turn to PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo a little sooner than planned.
“Marcus (Douthit) took himself out of the game early on. It wasn’t going to be easy after that,” Reyes said in the postgame press conference.
Like Iran, Gilas was without a full complement of its main stars. Absent from the roster are six players from the silver medal team of 2013: Jayson Castro, Jimmy Alapag, Larry Fonacier, Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood, and Marc Pingris.
Coach Chot talked about how missing these guys really affected different aspects of Gilas’ game.
“We are here without key players, who will be with us later (for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup to be played in Spain from Aug 30-Sept 14) and our outside shooting therefore is certainly not what it can be,” Reyes said.
Despite having a 4-1 win-loss record so far, Gilas’ form has looked far from that which enabled the team to qualify for the 2014 FIBA World Cup. The outside shooting and defensive intensity have been inconsistent, and if not for heroics from Gilas first-timer Paul Lee, some results might have been drastically different.
This was the first game Lee did not lead Gilas in scoring. Instead, the trio of LA Tenorio, Gary David, and Ranidel De Ocampo paced the Pinoys with 11 points each. Douthit had a subpar outing, finishing with just 6 markers and 8 boards. He visibly struggled to keep up with former NBA center Hamed Haddadi, who filled the stat sheet with 11 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks, and 1 steal.
Jamshidi and Yakhchali led the Iranian onslaught with a combined 37 points, while young playmaker Sajjad Mashayekhi also impressed with 10 markers.
Iran advances to the championship game and has a chance to repeat as FIBA Asia Cup kings.
As of this writing, China and Taiwan were still disputing the other slot in the championship game.
Iran (76) – Jamshidi 19, Yakhchali 18, Haddadi 11, Mashayekhi 10, Sahakian 7, Zangeneh 5, Lalehzadeh 3, Arghavan 2, Kazemi 1, Kardoust 0
Philippines (55) – Tenorio 11, David 11, De Ocampo 11, Douthit 6, Washington 5, Aguilar 4, Lee 4, Dillinger 3, Alas 0, Lanete 0, Belga 0, Fajardo 0
Quarter scores: 20-13, 39-28, 61-44, 76-55
GILAS PILIPINAS AT FIBA ASIA CUP