Iran overpowers Smart Gilas with big second-half run

For the first 20 minutes, Smart-Gilas Pilipinas 2.0 kept in step with formidable Iran. But when the Iranians turned up the heat, the Filipinos suddenly faded and completely crumbled in the pivotal half.

Unleashing a mighty second-half juggernaut, the Iranians earned a trip to the finals with a methodical 77-60 victory Friday while relegating the Filipinos to the battle for third in the 4th FIBA Asia Cup at the Ota Gymnasium in Tokyo, Japan.

Riding high on a 75-68 win over Chinese-Taipei on Thursday, Smart-Gilas put the clamps down on prolific Mohammad Samad Nikkha Bahrami, who was limited to just 12 points on an atrocious 2-of-11 shooting, but his less heralded teammates rose to the challenge, enabling Iran to turn a tight game into a romp.

Hamed Afagh drilled in 10 of his game-high 14 points in the fourth while towering Asghar Kardoust and Mohammad Jamshidi added 13 apiece for the favored Iranians, who repeatedly uncorked big runs to outscore the Filipinos 47-30 in the second half.

Japan and Qatar, who pulled the rug from under China and Lebanon respectively on Thursday, were battling at press time, with the winner facing Iran and the loser battling the Philippines Saturday.

Diminutive playmaker LA Tenorio and Jared Dillinger tallied 13 each but naturalized center Marcus Douthit failed to get into his usual groove due to foul woes, settling for just 11 points and seven boards against five turnovers in 30 minutes of action.

With the score tied at 30-all after the first half, Oshin Sahakian drained a triple that sparked Iran’s eight-to-nothing run to start the third.  Another triple by Afagh gave them a 46-36 cushion. The Nationals, however, fought back, pulling within 47-50 off two freebies by Gary David with 1:15 left in the period.

That proved to be the Filipinos’ last hurrah as Bahrami anchored the Iranians’ telling 12-0 run bridging the third and fourth cantos, building a whopping 62-47 spread. Making matters worse for the PH side during that critical stretch was Douthit’s fourth foul against Kardoust, forcing coach Chot Reyes to pull out his ace slotman with 8:06 left.

Back-to-back baskets by Larry Fonacier and Dillinger cut their deficit to 52-62 but the Iranians were simply too much, dropping a decisive 10-2 run capped by another Afagh triple off a Baharami feed, preserving their lead at 72-54 and virtually wrapping the game up with less than three minutes left.

Gilas boxscores: Tenorio 13, Dillinger 13, Douthit 11, Chan 5, Fonacier 5, Norwood 4, De Ocampo 4,Villanueva 3, Ganuelas 0, Thoss 0, Reyes 0.

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