FIBA World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers: Despite the loss to Iran, future is bright for the new look Team Pilipinas
In a game where they were expected to lose, coach Yeng Guiao's Team Pilipinas showed a lot of promises as they stood toe-to-toe with powerhouse Iran before yielding a 73-81 decision on the road at the start of the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers.
The Fil-German Christian Standhardinger carried the fight most of the way scoring 31 points and 12 rebounds, despite battling the much taller Iranians inside the paint, who ironically did most of the damage from the outside, with a few surprise long bombs from the behemoths.
However, no other Filipinos scored in double digits as the newcomer Alex Cabagnot and Beau Belga, finished with 9 and 6 points respectively. Scottie Thompson managed to provide good numbers (5 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) in limited minutes in the game where all twelve players saw action.
Veteran Samad Nikkhah Bahrami led Iran with 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists, in what could be his last game, while Mashayeki added 19 points and 4 assists. Kazemi scored a double-double 11 points and 11 rebounds providing ample support to make up for the void left by Haddadi's absence.
With the loss, Team Pilipinas fell to 4-3 win-loss record, but still managed to hang on to third place in Group F, behind Iran (6-1) and Australia (5-1).
In order to qualify for the FIBA World Cup in China next year, the Philippines team needs to maintain that place which is not a tall order as they are expected to have an easier time with Qatar and Kazakhstan in the remaining qualifying windows.
In the highly physical match where three Filipino players were bloodied, Team Pilipinas was able to keep their focus majority of the game, but their poor shooting in the fourth quarter allowed the Iranians to survive the scare.
But because of the home-and-away format, the Filipinos have a huge chance of avenging that loss as they face the Iranians in their home floor with a benefit of a stronger line-up and much longer preparations.