Gilas Pilipinas stuns Iran 87-73

Gilas Pilipinas stuns Iran 87-73
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Gilas Pilipinas stuns Iran 87-73
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Updated 28 September 2015

Gilas Pilipinas stuns Iran 87-73

Gilas Pilipinas stuns Iran 87-73

CHANGSHA, China: Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin had talked at length in ridding his squad with individualism some four weeks back.
On Monday afternoon, ranged against the most dominant team in the continent in the past decade, the Filipinos relied on their individuality to scuttle Iran and shake the balance of power in the Fiba Asia Olympic Qualifying tournament at the Changsha Social Work College Gym here.
Outsized terribly, the Filipinos leaned on point guard Jason Castro and naturalized center Andray Blatche in dominating their positions as Gilas broke away in a span that connected the third and fourth periods for an 87-73 dismantling of the Iranians.
It was the first win in a Fiba event by the Philippines over Iran and it was also the first victory since the 2012 Jones Cup as the Filipinos took possession of Group E lead and can avoid an early confrontation with powerhouse China in the KO stages.
“This game was won by individuals playing as a team,” Baldwin told international media, who were also in slight disbelief as the Iranians, who won their first four games by unbelievable spreads, never got to solve the Filipinos’ zone defense all game.
“To many who don’t know Philippine basketball, what I am saying won’t make sense,” Baldwin continued. “But today, we really exploited the individual skills of our players.”
Castro finished with 26 points – his most overpowering performance here yet – as he made minced meat of all defenders thrown at him, including the celebrated Mahdi Kamrani, the Iranian sentinel considered one of the best in the region.
Blatche, meanwhile, shrugged off slight pain in his right ankle and totally outplayed Hamed Haddadi, the 7-foot-2 former Memphis Grizzly in the NBA who never got into the groove and lost his cool with four minutes left by deliberately fouling himself out.
No team was able to even come close to giving the Iranians a semblance of a fight coming into this game. The first four foes fell by an average margin of more than 45 points to the defending champions.
But on Monday night, when No. 1 seeding in Group E was at stake, the Philippines played as hard as it could and dealt the Iranians a beating they likely won’t forget for a long time to come – no matter what happens the rest of this tournament.
Gilas still has India to contend with before finishing its preliminary round assignment, that match to happen at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
A win there would give the Filipinos top ranking going into the knockout stages, effectively taking host China out of the equation in the Final Four and shoving the Iranians into a semifinal clash with the Chinese.
Most likely to be a Final Four opponent for the Filipinos – should current forms hold – would be South Korea, which is likely to finish No. 2 behind China in Group F.
“This is what you hope for in this tournament – a great game,” Baldwin said. “We’re happy of course with the win, but in the dugout, there was a lot of humility there. The players were talking of getting the job done against India first.”
The win also erased all the bitter taste left in the mouth of a 75-73 loss to Palestine last Wednesday, the wake-up call the Filipinos needed as it has been uphill for them ever since.
“We can’t look past the India game,” Calvin Abueva, who scored 13 points and had six rebounds, said in Filipino. “We can’t be over-confident against them, because if we lose that game, all of our efforts here (against Iran) will amount to nothing.”
Terrence Romeo was the other big offensive performer for the Filipinos, shooting 15 points as Baldwin gave him the liberty to create his shots – unlike in the first four games when the Philippine coach seemingly restrained him offensively.
“I thought they played an excellent game,” Iran coach Dirk Bauermann said. “If they play the way they did today, they’re a very good team. When they share the ball, they are very difficult to beat.”

The Filipinos were behind, 37-47 with still 8:33 to play in the third quarter after a Nikka Bahrami trey before stringing up nine straight points that made a game out of it. The Filipinos eventually closed out the third period protecting a 65-60 lead.

A series of turnovers early in the fourth period did the Iranians in, as the Filipinos hopped on their skates and took an 80-67 lead with under four minutes to go.