Mighty Iran captures Jones Cup with unbeaten run

This early, formidable Iran is already sending an ominous message to the rest of the field for the upcoming FIBA-Asia cage championships.

Bannered by imposing center Hamed Haddadi and a solid backup support, the Iranians completed an eight-game sweep of the 35th William Jones Cup at the Xinzhuang gymnasium in New Taipei, underscoring the team’s readiness for the August 1-11 Manila joust.

With the 7-foot-2 Haddadi–who sees action for the Phoenix Suns in the NBA–leading the charge anew with a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds, Iran had already clinched the prestigious title with a 72-67 win over host Chinese-Taipei as early as Saturday.

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Iran was set to play Lebanon in a non-bearing game Sunday but the Lebanese side didn’t show up, enabling the Iranians to win the game via forfeiture.

With just 15 days to go before the Manila spectacle, Iran clearly intends to re-assert its dominance in the biennial continental meet, having won the titles in back-to-back fashion in 2007 and 2009. The Iranians were upset by Jordan in the quarterfinals of the 2011 edition.

Pooled in Group C along with defending champion China, powerhouse South Korea and lightweight Malaysia, the Iranians are favored to clinch one of the three tickets at stake for next year’s World Basketball Championships in Spain.

Finishing second behind Iran in the nine-team, 10-day tourney are the Taiwanese, who sported a 6-2-record, followed by South Korean and US-based Pro Alumni Basketball, which finished with identical 5-3 records.

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