All the bruises and beatings that Team Pilipinas suffered from Iran in the second round of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifier late Thursday at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran were all worth it as it drew praises from the country’s most decorated mentor.
Ginebra coach Tim Cone was greatly impressed with the intensity displayed by the Filipinos in their first match since getting involved in an ugly melee with Australia in the Philippine Arena in Bulacan last July.
Cone said head coach Yeng Guiao did a tremendous job controlling the tempo, but breaks — and outside shooting — didn’t go their way when it mattered the most.
In their 73-81 defeat, Team Pilipinas shot an ugly 5-of-28 from the rainbow area and yielded to the airtight zone defense of the Iranians.
Filipino-German Christian Standhardinger was the lone bright spot as he delivered 34 points, 12 rebounds and two steals, leaving new recruits Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter and Scottie Thompson as well as holdovers Gabe Norwood and Paul Lee bleeding for their points.
Iran didn’t parade injured Hamed Haddadi in the deciding stretch, but it drew significant numbers from Sahmad Nikhah Bahrami and Sajjad Mashayekhi, who tallied 21 and 19 points, respectively.
Still, Cone likes what he saw.
“I thought that we played a really good technical game. We just didn’t make our shots,” said Cone, the owner of 21 Philippine Basketball Association titles.
“It was a well-coached game and the guys really played well together.”
Despite their nightmarish shooting, the Filipinos were under control.
But their temper was tested more than a couple of times as the Iranians started to play with more physicality in the second half.
Beau Belga was left with a bloody lip while Lassiter suffered a busted left brow following a collision with an Iranian bruiser.
Standhardinger, obviously the best player on the floor, was also a recipient of some dirty plays as Arsalan Kazemi gave him several unnecessary shoves to throw him off his comfort zone.
But instead of retaliating like they did in their previous game against the Aussies, the Filipinos kept it cool and just simply let their game do the talking.
Breaks didn’t go their way, but their attitude excites Cone, who sees a bright future ahead.
“The national team is all about development, developing the team and getting better,” said Cone, who led the Nationals to a bronze medal finish in the Bangkok Asian Games in 1998.
“You cannot judge this team at this point right now; you have got to have patience with this team and let them develop.”
With the loss, the Philippines was placed into a must-win battle against Qatar on Monday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Crowd will not be a factor as FIBA would allow only 200 spectators composed of 40 production staff, 80 members of local and international media and around 50 officials and guests of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.
The Philippines is at the third spot behind Australia and Iran, who fashion a 6-1, win-loss slate while Japan and Kazakhstan are behind with 3-4 card.
Cone said the match against the Qataris would be very crucial.
It was a well-coached game and the guys really played well together.
“This game against Iran could have been a nice bonus game to win. But this wasn’t a killer,” said Cone.
“Qatar is more of a must-win game than this one because you have to keep Qatar behind the standings.”
“Our loss to Iran is not necessary to get in the World Cup,” he added. “But we have to get Qatar.”
Meanwhile, the Filipinos will have shorter time to recover and prepare as their arrival in Manila was delayed for 12 hours due to inclement weather.
The squad is still stranded at the Dubai International Airport as of press time.