Iran breaks Gilas’ hearts in painful Asian Qualifying homestand

Another foe. Another promise by a visiting coach. Another eerie sense
of déjà vu.

For all the hot shooting of Marcio Lassiter, the lane incursions of
Christian Standhardinger and the lay-ups of Jason Castro, Iran
answered every run and then some.

The result was another disappointing, 78-70, loss by the Philippines
to Iran where Gilas lost their two games of this crucial home stand
that stalled their drive for a spot in the 2019 Fiba World Cup.

One day before the game, Iran coach Mehran Shahintab promised a
quality game by his side despite missing center Hamed Haddadi and
do-it-all forward Sammad Nikkhah Bahrami.

Last November 30, Kazakhstan head coach Renatas Kurilionokas promised
a different result from their Asian Games blowout loss to the
Philippines.

The Philippines was in a good position to put away Iran. Center
Rouzbeh Arghavan had fouled out after a sterling relief effort of
starting slotman Meisam Mirzaeita who also battled foul trouble. June
Mar Fajardo scored on a undergoal stab for a 70-69 lead with 1:05 left
to play.

But Iran’s Benham Yakchali scored on a pull-up jumper after which he
assisted teammate Mohammad Jamshidi on a fastbreak layup to give Iran
a 73-70 lead with 26 seconds left.

Mohammad Hassan then picked off a poor inbound pass by Scottie
Thompson after which Yakchali converted a free throw. Yakchali
continued his endgame heroics when he stole the ball from Troy Rosario
and Jamshidi, a former Meralco Bolts import drove hard for a layup for
the game’s final points.

The duo of Jamshidi and Yakchali combined for 47 points to put away
the Philippines in front of a stunned Mall of Asia Arena crowd that
witness two painful and disappoint losses in four days. Last Friday,
November 30, Kazakhstan pulled the rug from under the home team with a
stunning 92-88 win as the Philippine crumbled in the endgame.

Now the two losses coupled with Japan’s 86-70 win over Kazakhstan saw
the Philippines tumble from third spot to fourth in the Group F
standings with an even 5-5 record. Iran moved up to 7-3 while Japan
got a leg up, 6-4 in the race for the last of the three slots
available for Group F nations.

“It was a disappointing loss because for the second time in four days,
we got stung when we had a chance to win,” said Philippines head coach
Yeng Guiao. “I feel that our lack of maturity hurt us as well as our
unfamiliarity with the international game and how it is called.”

Guiao though did not offer that as an excuse. “The responsibility is
all mine. I said that if we could not take the team to the World Cup
then I can walk away.”

Guiao also pointed out the 33 free throws they gave up to Iran (which
converted 23 of them). In contrast, the Philippines only shot 11-18.

Early in the game, Marcio Lassiter was on target while Standhardinger
twisted his way to 17 points and eight boards. But Iranian center
Mirzaeita was bullish inside as he scored eight first quarter points.

Arghavan, one of the heroes of Iran during their win against the
Philippines in Tehran, once more gave Iran a huge lift with eight
points, three rebounds, and three blocks off the bench.

“It is a big win for us considering we lost big to Australia,” noted
Iran head coach Mehran Shahintab. “This puts us back on track to play
for the World Cup. We are not yet done, but this is a big win.”

Jamshidi scored 26 points while Yakchali added 21. Mirzaeita added 11
points and eight caroms as well.

For the Philippines, Castro top scored with 19 points while
Standhardinger added 17. Lassiter finished with 12 points before
fouling out.