GILAS Pilipinas survived the test it wanted as it held off Iran, 81-70, in their tune-up game on Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum that proved to be a fitting sendoff for their three-week European swing.
The Filipino dribblers saw their sizeable double-digit lead almost disappear after seeing the Iranians make a late comeback, before proved steady down the stretch to prevail.
LA Tenorio scored a floater, before Andray Blatche made a stop on the other end then converted a three-point play as the duo delivered the biggest plays at crunch time for Gilas to outlast a zone-defending Iranian side.
“We were trying to survive the zone defense, but that’s good for us,” national coach Tab Baldwin said. “We need to learn to adapt to game situations. We just haven’t had a lot of time together, so both our weakness against the zone and our inability to adapt quickly really demonstrates that we need time together. We need more games.”
Blatche led the Filipino dribblers with 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting, 11 boards, four steals, one block, and one assist in 28 minutes, while Ryan Reyes, Japeth Aguilar, and Terrence Romeo added 12 points apiece.
Tenorio contributed just two markers, but it came at the perfect time as the floater at two minutes and 47 seconds left put an end to a 15-0 run that pulled the Iranians to within two points.
The comeback from as many as 23 points down was largely due to Iran coach Dirk Bauermann employing a zone defense that Gilas has yet to figure out in training, let alone in a game.
“He (Bauermann) caught us where we were weak. He probably would’ve beaten us if he played zone the whole game, but that’s not going to help him,” Baldwin said. “But it also showed that Iran also wanted to win the game, which is a good thing.”
“Finally, we found a couple of little options that we felt we could attack the zone with,” he added. “We did enough to survive.”
Gilas (81) – Blatche 20, Romeo 12, Aguilar 12, Reyes 12, Parks 11, de Ocampo 4, William 3, Fajardo 3, Tenorio 2, Pingris 2.
Iran (70) – Yakhchali 16, Sahakian 13, Mohammad 9, Zangeneh 8, Jamshidi 8, Arghavan 5, Farid 4, Kardoust 4, Mashayekhi 3, Dalirzaham 0.
Quarterscores: 29-15; 48-38; 67-50; 81-70.