HWASEONG, South Korea — Iran's Mohammadsamad Nik Khahbahrami and Mahdi Kamrani came up big in the final minute to hand Gilas Pilipinas a heartbreaking 68-63 loss on Thursday in the Asian Games basketball competitions at the Hwaseong Sports Complex.
Khahbahrami scored five successive points to turn a 61-63 deficit into a 66-63 Iran lead before Hamed Haddadi put the final touches to the win with two free throws after Marcus Douthit missed a potential game-tying three-pointer.
On the other hand, Kamrami helped Iran take a 61-60 lead by leading a crucial 8-0 run in a Group E preliminary round game which the Filipinos looked poised to steal after taking a 53-60 lead.
In all, Iran outscored the Philippines, 15-3, in the final six minutes to complete a two-game sweep of the group heading to the quarterfinal phase of the tournament.
Khahbahrami, who has gained interest from NBA teams after his play in the Fiba World Cup, scored 21 points to lead Iran while Hamed Haddadi had 20 points and 15 rebounds.
Gilas, on the other hand, fell to 1-1 (win-loss) and was left to rue a win that got away after failing to hold on to a 60-53 lead it posted after Paul Lee hit a jumper on the run, time down to 6:35.
But the Nationals suddenly went cold while Kamrani started to get hot. He hit a three-pointer to cap an 8-0 run with 4:09 left in to regain the lead for Iran, 61-60.
Bahrami took over from there, scoring on a jumper with 1:32 left as well as three free throws as Lee misfired on contested jumpers in two trips down the floor.
Kamrani had 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals for Iran.
Marc Pingris fouled out while Douthit and June Mar Fajardo were saddled with fouls while battling Haddadi and Iran's towering frontline in a very physical game.
“When we didn’t have a big guys inside, we couldn’t get the job done. That was the game when Iran got the lead back. It was hard to get it again,” said Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes.
Douthit missed an open triple in Gilas’ last stand before they enter the quarterfinal round.
Lee had 11 points for the Philippines while LA Tenorio and Douthit had 10 before a good-sized Filipino crowd that gave the stadium a 'home feel' for Gilas.
The Philippines started slowly as it trailed by 12 points, 29-17, at the end of the first period as Iran made 10 of its first 15 shots. But Gilas outscored Iran, 17-7, in the second period to trail by only 36-34 at the half.
Lee hit back-to-back baskets to open the third as Gilas marched to a 39-33 lead early and ended the quarter with a 53-50 advantage.
Iran (68) – Nik Khahbahrami 21, Hadaddi 20, Kamrani 12, Arghavan 6, Yakhchalidehkordi 3, Jamshidijafarabadi 3, Afagh 2, Mashayekhi 1, Zangeneh 0, Aslami Haji Abadi 0, Sahakian 0.
Philippines (63) – Lee 11, Tenorio 10, Douthit10, Norwood 9, de Ocampo 6, Pingris 5, David 4, Chan 3, Dillinger 3, Fajardo 2, Alapag 0, Aguilar 0. Quarterscores: 29-17, 36-34, 50-53, 68-63.