Oct 03, 2023

Gilas endures Iran fierce rally to make semis

HANGZHOU - Gilas Pilipinas survived Iran in a nerve-wracking ending, 84-83, to book a semifinals seat in the 19th Asian Games basketball competitions on Tuesday.

The Filipinos squandered a huge 21-point third quarter lead and needed the late game heroics of Justin Brownlee, and a little bit of luck, to hack out the thrilling win at the Zijingang gymnasium.

Brownlee was held to just two points in the pivotal fourth quarter, but proved to be the most important basket for Gilas as his floater with 44 seconds left gave the team the lead for good.

The Philippine team will now square off with defending champion China on Wednesday for a place in the gold medal match after the host defeated South Korea, 84-70, in their own quarterfinal pairing.

The semifinal game is set at 8 p.m.

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"It came down to the last play, and we're lucky to win," an obviously relieved Tim Cone, the Gilas coach, said afterwards.

"We shouldn't have put ourselves in that position. But that's the way these kind of games are in the international (competitions). They could turn to a dime, and this one turned into a dime."

Brownlee finished with 36 points, including 34 in the first three quarters. The Barangay Ginebra import also had eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals, while shooting 5-of-7 from three-point range.

Indeed, Gilas needed all the points it could get from the 35-year-old Brownlee as Iran suddenly caught fire in the final quarter to rally back from a 62-41 deficit behind the three-point shooting of Mohammadsina Vahedi and Matin Aghanjapour.

The game took a major turn in the final 62 seconds when the Iranians took the upperhand, 83-82, as Navid Rezaeifar hit the final two of his total 14 points.

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But Brownlee restored order for Gilas by converting on a side floater, 84-83, before the Filipinos held their breath as Aghanjapour misfired on what could have been a huge three-point shot for Iran in the final 25 seconds.

June Mar Fajardo also came huge for Gilas, finishing with 18 points, eight rebounds, and four assists while holding his own against Iran's physical and tough plays inside.

Vahedi had 24 points on 4-of-8 shooting from three-point range in leading Iran, which has been relegated in the classification for fifth to eight places. (RG)

The scores
Philippines (84) - Brownlee 36, Fajardo 18, Thompson 11, Oftana 7, Perez 6, Kouame 4, Newsome 2, Alas 0, Tolentino 0, Aguilar 0.

Iran (83) - Vahedi 24, Rezaeifar 14, Mirzaeitalarposhti 12, Aghajanpour 11, Girgooorian 8, Mashayekhi 6, Kazemi 6, Saijad 2.

Quarterscores: 28-22; 48-36; 71-54: 84-83.