Iran pulled away in the final quarter from what had been a tight game to overcome a gritty Filipino five, 85-71, and win the FIBA Asia Championship Sunday.
Boosted by a huge and wildly cheering home crowd in the Mall of Asia Arena, Gilas Pilipinas put up a spirited fight against the taller and heftier Iranians and even led for a short stretch in the first half.
But Iran capitalized on height superiority to dominate the boards and set up a tight defensive ring.
The runner-up finish, however, was enough to earn the Philippines a ticket to the FIBA World Championships in Madrid, Spain, next year.
Iran and third-placer South Korea pocketed the other two slots for Asia in the world meet.
Hamed Hadadi, the 7’2 center of the Phoenix Suns in the NBA, anchored the Iranian offense in the final half as Iran pulled away by as much as 10 points, 53-43, in the third period.
The Filipinos grabbed the lead twice in the opening quarter, the last was at 10-6 on June Mar Fajardo’s split off a foul by Samad Nikkha Bahrami.
It was the Philippines’ best finish in FIBA Asia since 1985. Gilas Pilipinas also surpassed the fourth place finish by the Philippine team coached by Serbian Rajko Toroman in 2011 in Wuhan, China.
Hadadi fouled out late in the match, but he posed a defensive threat to Jimmy Alapag, Jayson Castro, Marc Pingris and Ranidel de Ocampo, while topscoring for Iran with 29 points.
He was also named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the 15-nation tournament.
Castro was named to the mythical five along with Iran’s Oshin Sahakian and Hadadi, Korean Kim Mingoo and Chinese-Taipei’s Lin Chih-Chieh Castro led the Filipinos with 18 points. Jimmy Alapag was the only Filipino who shot in double figures with 13.
Iran made it to the finals via a 79-60 romp over the Taiwanese in the semifinals Saturday. In the other semis game, Gilas Pilipinas edged South Korea in an 86-79 thriller.
The Koreans cruised past Chinese-Taipei, 75-57, rebounding from their setback to Gilas Pilipinas the night before.
Earlier, Jordan routed Kazakhstan, 88-59, to finish seventh. The Kazakhs of coach Matteo Boniciolli settled for 8th place.
China, the winningest team in FIBA-Asia with 15 titles, defeated Qatar, 96-85, to take the fifth spot, one of their poorest showings in the biennial event, which the Philippines last hosted in 1973.