Gold-like silver for Gilas

FIBA ASIA PHOTO10

 Jun Mar Fajardo versus Hammed HADADI and SOHRABNEJAD Hamed.(Photo by Nuki Sabio)

GILAS Pilipinas failed fell short in its bid to add on to a dream run Sunday, falling to stratospheric Iran, 71-85, but has a glittering prize to show nonetheless from the 27th FIBA Asia Championship at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Hammed Haddadi translated his hulking 7-foot-2 frame into a Most Valuable Player of the tournament performance of 29 points and 16 rebounds in powering Iran to the crown it held in 2007 and 2009, but lost with an early exit two years ago in Wuhan, China.

Sammad Bahrami and Mehdi Kamrani combined for 34 points as the Iranians fully exploited its size advantage to the fullest in the second half, enabling it to post leads that reached a high of 16 in the fourth quarter.

With Marcus Douthit not suiting up due to a right shin injury, the Philippines had no answer to Haddadi and Iran’s other frontliners and came at a time when its outside shooting which could have stretched its opponent’s defense failed to show up.

Yet the second place remains the highest the Filipinos have achieved in the biennial tourney since their last win in the 1985-86 edition and, besides, they have already realized the bigger objective.

The top three finishers in the tourney are rewarded with passage to next year’s FIBA World Cup in Spain, a stage the Philippines has not been in since 1978 and only because it hosted the sport’s biggest dance then.

Denied of a finals shot by the home team Saturday, Korea settled for the next best thing by taking the continent’s last slot in Spain after beating Chinese Taipei 75-57 in their battle for third.

Kim Mingoo scored a gamehigh 21 points and veteran center Kim Joo-sung added 12 points and eight rebounds as the Koreans reprised their finish in Wuhan.

The likes of Jayson Castro, Jimmy Alapag and the rest of Gilas put up one gallant fight and the crowd of almost 20,000 lustily cheered the players on when their time to occupy the podium came.

Castro even had the distinction of being named the tournament’s best point guard, joining  Korean shooting guard Kim Mingoo, Taiwanese forward Lin Chih-Chieh, Iranian power forward Oshin Sahakian and Haddadi in the Mythical Team.

Denied of a finals shot by the home team Saturday, Korea settled for the next best thing by taking the continent’s last slot in Spain after beating Chinese Taipei 75-57 in their battle for third.

Kim Mingoo scored a gamehigh 21 points and veteran center Kim Joo-sung added 12 points and eight rebounds as the Koreans reprised their finish in the last edition of the biennial tourney.

The finish was something hoped-for but not truly expected, until things started falling into place for Gilas, its date with destiny helped along by circumstances beyond its control.

There was the surprise 71-68 win fashioned by Qatar over Chinese Taipei last Wednesday, helping the home team finish on top of its group and avoid a quarterfinals confrontation with China.

There was also the suspension slapped on Lebanon, taking away one potential threat which the Filipinos would have been sure to meet in the second round of the eliminations.

First and foremost was the awarding of the hosting rights to Manila after FIBA Asia decided the situation in original host Lebanon was too volatile. In the process, Gilas got the indispensable homecourt advantage that went a long way.

Gilas took care of its end of the business.

The Nationals, given just two months to gel together and without a key phase in their preparations after getting disinvited in the Jones Cup, absorbed just one loss in the first round but racked up three straight W’s in the second round.

Paired against Kazakhstan in the quarters, Gilas came up with its most explosive game on both ends of the court yet in fashioning an 88-58 rout that set it up against dreaded Korea in the Final Four.

On that muggy Saturday evening Gilas showed it would not be denied a ticket to Spain, playing minus Douthit in the last 25 minutes of play for an 86-79 victory.

The rest of the field, including the top two in the last edition of the biennial tourney, was left trying to salvage some pride.

Jordan, runnerup two years ago in Wuhan, China, dealt Kazakhstan an 88-59 drubbing to cop seventh place.

China, its drive for a 16th title stopped in its tracks by a quarterfinals loss to Chinese Taipei last Friday, rolled back Qatar 96-85 for fifth place.

In matches decided last Saturday, Japan whipped Hong Kong, 79-50, to clinch ninth place while India wound up in 11th following a 75-65 victory over Bahrain.

Saudi Arabia landed 13th, Thailand 14th and Malaysia 15th and last, rounding up the other participants’ finishes.(pr)

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