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Gilas holds off late Iran rally to sweep friendly series

By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY--Gilas Pilipinas nearly bubbled a 23-point lead but finished strong to repulse Iran, 81-70, in a friendly at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday night.

Gilas ended the game on a 9-0 run after seeing their lead being cut down to just two with an eternity of basketball left.

Gilas began waxing hot late in the first quarter, going on a 28-7 run that spilled to the second behind the efficient shooting of Japeth Aguilar to take a 39-19 lead.

Mohammad Hasanzadeh, however, sparked an 11-0 Iranian run that drew them to within nine, 34-43, with 3:12 left in the first half. Iran would come to within eight, 40-48, early into the third quarter.

But two baskets from Andray Blatche and back-to-back triples from Ryan Reyes put Gilas up by 19 anew, 59-40, with 6:57 left in the period.

After four straight free throws from Oshin Sahakian, Gilas went on another 8-0 run to erect their largest lead, 67-44, with 2:35 left in the third.

Iran ended the quarter with six unanswered points and started the fourth with four straight more to draw to within 13, 54-67, with 9:05 to go.

Gilas appeared to have weathered the potential Iranian late storm after making a 5-1 mini rally to up the lead back to 17, 72-55, with 7:09 remaining.

But a huge 15-0 run by Iran cut the gap to two, 72-70, with 2:58 left in regulation.

Following a timeout, however, LA Tenorio scored on a floater to spark the game-deciding Gilas surge bolstered by blocks from Blatche and Gabe Norwood.

Blatche finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds, one assist, one block, and four steals for Gilas, which swept their tuneup series against Iran following a 72-64 victory on Tuesday night behind closed doors at the Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong.

Aguilar went 5-of-5 from the field to finish with 12 points of his own, while Reyes dropped four triples in total and also tallied 12 points in total.

Ray-Ray Parks also made a statement in the game, going 4-of-6 from the floor for 11 points along with five assists, three rebounds, and a steal.

Behman Yakhchali led Iran with 16 points, three rebounds, and two assists.

Box Scores:

Philippines 81-Blatche 20, Romeo 12, Aguilar 12, Reyes 12, Parks 11, De Ocampo 4, Castro 3, Fajardo 3, Pingris 2, Tenorio 2, Norwood 0, Abueva 0, Rosario 0

Iran 70-Yakhchali 16, Sahakian 13, Hasanzadeh 9, Jamshidi 8, Zanganeh 8, Arghavan 5, Aslani 4, Kardoust 4, Mashayekhi 3, Dalirzahan 0, Sedighi 0

Quarterscores: 29-15, 48-38, 67-50, 81-70

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno