by Jonas Terrado
Game Today (Mall of Asia Arena)
7:30 p.m. – Philippines vs Iran
Gilas Pilipinas tries to shrug off the negative vibes of Friday’s stunning loss to Kazakhstan and pull off a morale-boosting win against shorthanded Iran tonight in the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Victory in the 7:30 p.m. will likely remove any doubt of Gilas’ capability of securing a World Cup berth after getting a rude awakening by Kazakhstan with a 92-88 defeat in front of a disappointed home crowd.
Coach Yeng Guiao is slated to insert Christian Standhardinger, Jayson Castro, Troy Rosario, and Arwind Santos in hopes of salvaging a split of the fifth window opposite an Iranian side which is missing key players.
Guiao, at press time, has yet to determine which players from the Kazakhstan match will be removed from the 12-man lineup, though Standhardinger is slated to replace Stanley Pringle as the team’s naturalized player.
“We talked about the lessons that we learned (against Kazakhstan) but we cannot carry that baggage until the Iran game because it will make things tougher for us,” said Guiao. “Bawian na lang natin yung Iran.”
Iran, which beat Gilas 81-73 in Tehran last September, was without Hamed Haddadi, Arsalan Kazemi and Samad Nikkah Bahrami during Friday’s 86-47 loss to Australia in Melbourne.
But Iran remains a formidable side sans the three players, with Rouzbeh Arghavan, Mohammad Jamshidi and Behnam Yakhchali expected to be included in tonight’s 12-man roster.
Playing for the first time at MOA since winning the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, Iran is looking to solidify its grip on second place.
The Iranians tote a 6-3 record while Gilas is tied with Japan for third at 5-4. The Japanese cagers play host to Kazakhstan, which is in fifth at 4-5, tonight in Toyama.
A loss coupled with another Japan win will hurt Gilas’ chances of securing a place in the World Cup.