A hot start was not enough to secure a home win for the Philippines as they fall late to Iran, 78-70, in their last homestand of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
Back-to-back threes from Marcio Lassiter and Troy Rosario gave the Philippines an early 13-8 lead halfway through the first quarter, but the Iranian bigs always found ways to counter with baskets underneath.
A third Lassiter three sparked another Philippine run, but the relentless Persian side continued to claw back. Iranian guard Behnam Yakchali beat the buzzer with a three of his own to end the first quarter down by just one, 20-19.
After holding on to a slim lead throughout the second quarter, the Filipinos relinquished a 44-42 disadvantage to Iran after a made attempt by Yakhchali at the 6:20 mark of the third frame, but it was taken back in the next possession by Jayson Castro’s three.
A malfunctioning shot clock that held up the start of the final quarter did little to cool down Castro, who quickly scored on a driving layup.
The Philippines led as much as eight after a three-point shot by Beau Belga, but Iran again managed to trim it back down. A three by Mohammad Jamshidi gave Iran a 67-62 lead at the 4:48 mark.
Jayson Castro’s desperation heave to beat the shot clock hit the bottom of the net to give the Philippines back the lead, but two June Mar Fajardo missed free throws and a Hamed Hosseinzadeh jumper took it away. June Mar Fajardo putback off a Castro miss at the 1:06 mark gave them another one-point lead, but it was quickly countered with with nine straight points by the Iranians to steal the game.
Castro led the Philippine attack with 19 points and five rebounds, while Christian Standhardinger and Marcio Lassiter added 14 and 13 points each. No other Filipino finished in double-figures.
Mohammad Jamshidi led all scorers with 30 points off an efficient 63 percent shooting from the field to go with seven assists and four rebounds. Behnam Yakchali also impressed with 25 points, while Meisam Mirza played through foul trouble to chip in with 14 points.
With another heartbreaking defeat at home, the Philippines fall to 5-5, behind red-hot Japan (6-4) who has won four-straight games in the second round. Iran improves to 7-3 to remain firm at second behind Group F leaders Australia (8-1).
Only the top three countries from each group and the best fourth seed team from either bracket will qualify for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
The Philippines play their final two games on the road in the sixth window of the Asian Qualifiers: Qatar on the 21st of February and against Iran on the 24th.
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