Must win last two games

MANILA, Philippines — In a virtual repeat of their previous match, Gilas Pilipinas played tough almost throughout versus mighty Iran but floundered at the finish, thus falling on the brink of elimination in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers.

The Nationals couldn’t connect and worse committed crucial errors in an endgame breakdown as they bowed anew to the Iranians, 70-78, and fell outside the Top Three in Group F play much to the chagrin of the big cheering crowd at the MOA Arena last night.

Australia (9-1) and Iran (7-3) remained first and second, and Japan (6-4) bumped off the Philippines (5-5) at third place as the Japanese completed a sweep of their back-to-back home games with an 86-70 conquest of Team Kazakhstan.

Meanwhile, Gilas yielded its own back-to-back home matches, and now needs to rally on the road as it plays Qatar and Kazakhstan on their home fronts.

“I apologized for the loss, but we’d still do our best to make the World Cup,” said national coach Yeng Guiao.

“For a while, I thought we had a good chance of winning as we’re leading for the most part of the game. I thought we had a chance of breaking out but it didn’t happen,” said Guiao ruing lack of maturity as the cause of their defeat.

The Nationals led most of the way and even enjoyed an eight-point spread at 60-52 early in the fourth quarter only to sag and collapse at the finish.

They were still ahead at 70-69 with 1:04 left but blew the game away on the Iranians’ nine-to-nothing closing punch.

The Iranians played minus top guns Hamed Haddadi and Nikkhah Bahrami but nonetheless unleashed a gritty crew led by wing men Mohammad Jamshidi and Bahnam Yakhchalidehkordi who combined for 47 points, including the lethal buckets at endgame.

Yakhchalidehkordi converted a tough jumper off Troy Rosario then, following a missed three-pointer by Rosario, Jamshidi finished a quick transition play that had the Iranians jumping ahead at 73-70 with time down to 26.7 seconds.

Still just one possession down, the Nationals eventually yielded the contest on an errant throw-in by Scottie Thompson.

 It was a more painful loss than the one the Nationals gave away against the Kazakhs on Friday.

“We’re disappointed not just with this game but the whole window,” said Guiao.

Marcio Lassiter and Christian Standhardinger fired 11 apiece, and the Nationals enjoyed a better field-goal shooting percentage as they took the half at 39-35.

Team Phl enjoyed the lead most of the way in the opening half, posting a number of six-point spreads but couldn’t get a bigger lead on crucial turnovers.

The Nationals were ahead at 20-14 before back-to-back errors allowed the Iranians to draw within one, 19-20, at the end of the opening period.

Iran closed the first frame with a buzzer-beating trey by Jamshidi following a steal on a lousy pass by Matthew Wright to Beau Belga.

The scores:

Iran 78 – Jamshidi 26, Yakhchalidehkordi 21, Mirzaeitalarposhti 11, Arghavan 8, Hassanzadeh 7, Mozafarivanani 3, Hoseeinzadeh 2, Torabi 0, Rezaeifar 0.

The Philippines 70 – Castro 19, Standhardinger 17, Lassiter 12, Fajardo 8, Wright 4, Belga 3, Rosario 3, Aguilar 2, Santos 2, Tenorio 0, Thompson 0,  Norwood 0.

Quarterscores: 19-20, 35-39, 50-54, 78-70.

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