The young Pilipinas Smart Gilas team gave Mahram Tehran all it could handle at the 20th FIBA Asia Champions Cup. They led Mahram 46-44 at half time but the more experienced and taller Iranians behind import Jackson Vroman's 42 points outlasted the Filipinos 98-87 in an exciting dogfight that showed us a glimpse of the future of Philippine Basketball.
Now, you can only wonder if only the Philippines was able to send the entire developmental team to the tournament. Surely, Japeth Aguilar, Gian Chu and Rabeh Al- Hussaini could have made a big difference in the game.
Nevertheless, the Filipinos gave a valiant effort in its fight against the heavily-favored Iranians, the tournament-favorite to win the crown.
Here's the report from Iran Sports Press--
WABA champions Mahram started off slow, but steadily grew in strength and busted the enthusiastic bubble of Smart Gilas for a 98-87 to open their campaign in the 20th FIBA Asia Champions Cup on a winning note on Wednedsay.
Smart Gilas, who defeated Sangmoo on the opening day, thus suffered their first defeat.
American forward Jackson Vroman, MVP at WABA qualifiers when he donned the Saba Mehr colors, played all the 40 minutes of the game, and deservingly led the game in scoring as well as rebounds.
The 27-year-old former New Orleans Hornets player returned 42 points, with a 69% (16/23) success rate in field attempts, and collected 13 rebounds
Priest Lauderdale, the other NBA alumnus in Mahram ranks, played only the first half of the game, but during his presence proved tall enough for his 16 points and 11 boards.
Samad Nikkah, the captain of the Iran National Team at the Beijing Olympics last year, celebrated his return to the FIBA Asia mould with 19 points – all of them in the second half – and eight assists.
Smart Gilas, on the other hand, had an all-round attack.
Mark Barocca was the leader in scoring with 18 points and American import Chester Giles contributed 14 points as the Filipino developmental team kept their more fancied opponents on their toes for almost the entire first half.
Smart Gilas led the first quarter 24-16 and the first half 46-44, but against the more experienced Mahram the Filipino youngsters fell short in terms of the figures on the scoreboard.
“I’m very proud of the way my boys played,” said Smart Gilas coach Toroman Rajkov, under whose training Iran won the 2007 FIBA Asia championship and subsequently the 2008 Olympics.
“I’m in no way disappointed with our performance. They showed we have the attitude to play big opposition without any fear,” the Serbian said.
“In my opinion, Mahram is the team to beat for championship here. Therefore, keeping them under pressure for almost the entire game is an achievement for us.”
Rajkov’s received compliments from his Mahram counterpart, Mostafa Hashemi.
“They really scared us. Full marks to Toroman,” Hashemi said.
“We were caught completely off guard by their speed. We had to make a couple of changes in our thinking,” Hashemi said about resting Lauderdale for the second half.
“We are yet getting used to the condition. And their speed unsettled us. I hope we can learn from this and improve as the tournament progresses,” Hashemi said.
Mahram 98 (Jackson Vroman 42, Samad Nikkah 19, Priest Lauderdale 16) bt Smart Gilas 87 (Mark Barocca 18, Chester Giles 14, Dylan Ababou 11, Marnel Baracel 11). Quarterwise Scores: 16-24, 44-46, 72-63.