By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
IRAN continued to roll in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, defeating the Philippines, 81-73, at the start of the second round of the competition on Thursday night at the Azady Gym in Tehran.
Opted not to play big man Hamed Haddadi for much of the contest, the Iranians still proved themselves a handful for the Philippine team, anchoring their attack on their size advantage and timely shooting from the outside.
Iran got off to a fast start, scoring four straight points in the opening minute care of guard Sajjad Mashayekhi.
But the Philippines would recover no sooner led by Asi Taulava and Gabe Norwood.
The Filipinos overtook the Iranians, 9-8, with 5:32 remaining in the first quarter after which the two teams went back-and-forth.
But led by Christian Standhardinger the Philippines would finish strong, holding a 22-21 lead after the first 10 minutes.
The protagonists continued to jostle to begin the second quarter before Iran made a 7-0 run midway into it to build a 36-30 advantage by the 3:05 mark.
The Philippines regained its footing, responding with a 7-0 blast of its own to reclaim the lead, 37-36, after a minute.
Iran though would eventually go on top, 40-38, as the opening half drew to a close.
Paul Lee jump-started things for Team Pilipinas at the beginning of the third quarter, scoring four straight points to give his team an early 42-40 advantage.
A slugfest ensued before Iran made another crevice, 53-49, as the third period hit the halfway juncture.
Alex Cabagnot though strung up five straight points after to give back the lead to the Philippines, 54-53, with five minutes remaining.
Mohammadsamad Nik Khahbahrami then took charge for the Iranians, leading his team to a 63-59 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Iran continued to give it to the Philippines at the start of the payoff quarter, racing to a 68-62 advantage with7:29 left in the game.
It went on to build on it in the next three minutes, extending its lead to nine points, 75-66.
The Philippines tried to find a way to rally back but got little headway before eventually bowing to the hosts.
Mr. Nik Khahbahrami led the way for Iran with 21 points to go along with eight rebounds.
Mr. Mashayekhi had 19 points while Arsalan Kazemi Naeini had a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Mr. Standhardinger had a game-high 30 points and 12 rebounds while Alex Cabagnot had nine points and five assists.
With the win, Iran moved to solo first place, as of this writing, in the merged Group F with a 6-1 record while the Philippines dropped to 4-3, good for third.
The top three teams from the two merged groups at the end of the second round automatically advance to the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China.