Gilas bounces back with close win over Iran

Smart Gilas Pilipinas faltered from the free throw line in the last minute but held on to score a big 77-75 win over erstwhile unbeaten Iran Friday in the 34th William Jones Cup in Taiwan.

Veteran Iranian point guard Mahdi Kamrani missed a desperation three-point shot at the buzzer after Jeff Chan muffed his second charity shot with just 5.8 seconds left in the game to seal the close win for the Filipinos.

The Philippines, Iran and the USA are all tied at the helm with 5-1 cards.  After the single round robin that will end on Sunday, the team with the best record takes home the tournament championship.  In case of a tie, the winner-over-the-other rule will be applied to decide the champion.  In a three-way standoff, the quotient system will determine the winner.  Gilas II will face host team Chinese-Taipei Team A (3-2) tomorrow, and then the USA on Sunday.

Gabe Norwood capped his game-long brilliance with 17 points, including two triples out of three tries, while Marcus Douthit topscored for Gilas with 22 markers.

From a 33-all deadlock at halftime, Gilas came out strong in the second half and led by as many as ten points in the payoff quarter before the three-time defending champion Iran staged several rallies to narrow the gap.  The Iranians held the Filipinos scoreless for almost four minutes to come to within two points, at 69-71, with 1:35 left in the game.  But Norwood unloaded a trey from the corner to bring back the Nationals lead to five.
 
Iranian sensation Samad Nikhah Bahrami scored on a lay-up off a steal to cut his team’s deficit to three, at 71-74.  Douthit then scored on a slam dunk off a feed from Ranidel de Ocampo, and was fouled in the process.  But the naturalized player from Providence College missed the extra foul shot and Bahrami nailed a short jumper with still 22 ticks remaining to cut the lead to three. 

Iran sent De Ocampo to the stripe,  but the Talk ‘N Text forward failed to convert both charities.  Bahrami then hit another basket with only 7.7 seconds in play to reduce the Philippines’ advantage to just one, at 76-75.  The Iranians immediately fouled Chan, who sank his first gift shot but bungled the second, before Kamrani decided to play hero by going for the win with a triple, but missed the target.

The Philippine squad needed this upset win to have a chance of taking home the title, which will happen if it beats the home squad tomorrow, and the Americans on Sunday.  Gilas bowed to Lebanon yesterday, 72-91, after four straight victories over Jordan, Taiwan-B, South Korea and Japan.

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