While Gilas Pilipinas is still in the fighting at the Asia qualifiers to gain a spot on the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China this coming 2019, despite all trials and tribulations from past games, another local contingent is also close to completing its participation at another FIBA basketball tournament in this corner of the world. The 2018 FIBA Asia Champions Cup is currently being contested at Nonthaburi, Thailand. Representing the Philippines in this eight-team tournament is the Meralco Bolts from the PBA. With the semi-final matches on Monday, Meralco has been bested by a team from one of the Philippines’ recurring basketball rivals, Iran.
ESPN 5 reports that in a hard-fought semis match this October 1, the Philippine Basketball Association’s Meralco Bolts was outlasted by the Iranian pro team Petrochimi Bandar Imam at Nonthaburi’s Stadium 29. What transpired was a fierce battle on the hard court that saw some of the smallest point advantages between a Philippine and Iranian team in recent competition. That was much the same story in the final score of the Iran-Gilas Asia qualifiers match in Tehran last September 13. Theirs was 81-73; in the case of Petrochimi versus the Bolts it ended in 79-74.
It was something of a foreshadowing that the Iranians immediately led by 7 to nothing over Meralco in the first minutes of the first quarter for this first semifinal game of the 2018 FIBA Asia Champions Cup. Fortunately the team, under Coach Norman Black, managed to keep their heads and barely turn things around with a narrow lead at quarter’s end. The lead changes continued until the Bolts squeezed into a 1-point lead at halftime. Come third quarter however, Petrochimi was resurgent with a vengeance, though Captain Reynel Hugnatan made a desperate 3-pointer to put his team back in front by a single possession. By that point however, the Bolts were clearly fizzling out and the Iranians switched to gamely shooting from the outside to ultimately cement a narrow victory.
Import Allen Durham was the primary point generator for Meralco in this game, leading his teammates by 27 points. When he was fouled out in the last minute of play, there were no more serious scoring attempts by the Bolts. Durham though was outscored by Petrochimi long-ranger Behnam Yakhchalidehkordi and his 29 points for the Iranians. With this, Petrochimi will play the Asia Champions Cup Finals against Alvark Tokyo, which won a more curb-stomp battle against the Seoul SK Knights following the Bolts-Petrochimi game. Meralco for its part will have to tangle with the team from Korean, another thorn on the Philippine basketball side, for the bronze medal this Tuesday.
Image courtesy of Inquirer Sports