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Haddadi powers Iran past PH

NOT having Andray Blatche around finally took its toll on Smart Gilas Pilipinas as Iran’s Hamed Haddadi threw his weight around inside the paint.

Taking full advantage of its edge in ceiling, tournament-leading Iran turned in a methodical second half to turn back the Philippines, 74-65, to retain its place up top in the 37th William Jones Cup yesterday at the Xinchuang Gymnasium, Taipei.

Andray Blatche

The 7-foot-2 Haddadi, Iran’s star for a long time now, muscled his way inside the paint to complete a mammoth game with 22 points and 14 rebounds for a double-double. He thus led the Iranians to another victory even as Asi Taulava barely held his own against Iran’s giant.

It was a rematch of the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championship finals which produced the same result with the Iranians coming out triumphant.

Iran improved its card to 5-1 and inches closer to winning the tournament while Smart Gilas Pilipinas, which saw its two-game winning streak snapped, slipped to 3-2 in the middle of the pack now.

Behind Hamed Haddadi’s inside play and presence, Iran was able to gain some much needed distance from the pesky Filipinos in the third period after a close first half.

Iran was able to establish a sizeable double-digit lead, 54-42, with under a minute left in the third after a 20-11 spurt.

However, Smart Gilas then got a bit closer heading into the fourth after successive points from Calvin Abueva to end the third with Iran leading, 54-47.

The Philippines carried on from there and back-to-back baskets from JC Intal pushed Gilas to within a single possession as the lead went down to just three for Iran, 56-53, with under eight minutes left.

Smart Gilas remained in the thick of things after Intal knocked down another basket, this time from downtown, with 3:41 remaining to make it 65-61 for Iran.

But Iran was able to counter as it swiftly responded with a dagger 5-0 run capped by Haddadi’s emphatic slam dunk to stretch the distance further to 70-61 with 2:14 left.

That proved to be the dagger as Iran held on and the Philippines wasn’t able to respond with necessary baskets down the stretch.

Despite being guarded by Haddadi, Taulava had a nice game, finishing with 12 points to lead the Philippines. Intal scored all of his 10 markers in the fourth period for Gilas Pilipinas.

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