Iran overcame a slow start to crush Chinese-Taipei, 79-60, on Saturday to advance to the finals of the 27th FIBA-Asia Men’s Basketball Championship at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Iranians were trailing the Taiwanese in the first period but came back strong at the start of the second quarter to clinch their third finals appearance in the biennial event.
They will face the winner of the game between South Korea and host Philippines, which was scheduled later Saturday night.
“We did not start the game well. I don’t know why, but at least later on, we were playing good already,” said Iran coach Mehmed Becirovic. “We started also controlling the game after that. Chinese-Taipei is a strong team, they beat China so I guess that’s it.”
Iran, winner of two FIBA Asia crowns, is unbeaten so far in the tournament.
Chinese-Taipei will meet the loser in the other semifinal game in the battle for third place at 5 p.m. and hope to grab the last of three tickets to the 2014 FIBA World Championship in Madrid, Spain.
Veteran center Hamed Hadadi led the Iranian offense with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Mahdi Kamrany topscored with 19 points, with six rebounds, six assists and two steals. Oshin Sahakian contributed 13 points and Hamed Afagh, 10.
Quincy Davis led Chinese-Taipei with 16 points and Chen Shih-Chieh shot 11, the only Chinese Taipei players to rack up double figures.
”Iran is a strong team. They played very good defense,” said Chinese-Taipei coach Hsu Chin-Che.
Hung Chih-Shan and Lu Cheng-Ju started strong by firing five-point each that gave the Taiwanese a nine-point edge in the first quarter.
But 7’2 Hamed Hadadi beefed up the Iranian defense that silenced the guns of Chinese-Taipei for about seven minutes.
The Iranians also engineered a fiery 17-0 run to grab the lead, 31-25.
Davis broke the scoring drought for the Taiwanese with a pair of charities off a technical foul by Iran coach Becirovic.
Earlier yesterday, dethroned China continued to play without their usual intensity after losing to Chinese-Taipei on Friday.
Veteran and former NBA player Wang Zhi-Zhi came to the rescue by scoring a three-point play in the crucial stretch as the Chinese eked out a 79-76 win over Jordan.
China, the winningest team in FIBA-Asia with 15 titles, had just come off a stunning 98-76 loss to Chinese-Taipei, and was playing lethargic basketball against the Jordanians, until the 35-year-old Wang stepped
They will take on the winner of the game between Qatar and Kazakhstan for fifth spot Sunday.
Wang, who played for the Dallas Mavericks, finished with 33 points and snared seven rebounds and three assists in his best performance in the tournament.
Only six of the 12 players fielded by Greek coach Giannakis Panagiotis scored. Seven footer Yi Jianlian, also an NBA veteran, contributed 18 points, four rebounds and five assists.
“It was another close game for us. We tried hard to win. Even if Jordan grabbed the lead, but it was good, we kept our focus in the end,” Panagiotis said.
India leaned on Singh Pratham and Vishesh Bhriguvanshi’s combined 35 points to beat Bahrain, 75-65, and settled for 11th place in the 15-nation event, which will send the top three teams to the 2014 FIBA World Championship in Madrid, Spain.
Pratham was 50 percent in the field goal on six-of-12 attempts while Bhriguvanshi was also four-of-eight as they immediately surged to 27-13 upperhand in the first 10 minutes of the game. But Bahrain behind Husain Altawash and Yunes Kawaid fought back with a 11-2 rally to move just a lone point behind, 39-40, at the half.
The two teams exchanged baskets in the next frame and only two points separated them 53-51 until a spurt by Pratham and Bhriguvanshi.
Japan beat Hong Kong, 79-50, to finish 9th. Kosuke Kanamaru led all scorers with 25 points, Atsuya Ota added 15 on top of nine rebounds and three assists as the Japanese relegated Hong Kong to 10th place.