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TOKUSHIMA (FIBA Asia Championship) - Back in the National Team, from an injury forced four-month lay-off, Iranian point guard Mahdi Kamrany had more points to prove in the Group 'A' encounter against Iran on Saturday. And the way the proceedings went, it was indeed an uphill task for the 25-year-old to display his complete set of wares up to the optimum level.
But only till that moment in the dying moments of the game, when the Mehram point guard chose to seize the opportunity to seal the most decisive move of the humdinger of an encounter.
With about 0:24s left in the match, and with his side struggling to hold on to the razor edge 71-69 lead, Kamrany's sharp sense of opportunism came to the fore.
With Philippines resorting to full court pressure - and almost getting the expected returns - and his side striving to cope with that pressure, Kamrany got possession of the ball. Instead of releasing it immediately, a move which had resulted in hasty profligacies on earlier occasions, Kamrany chose to hold the ball for that extra second.
That delay, brought about a sense of calm on Iran's nerves, and when Kamrany released the ball, Moosa Nabipoor, present exactly where he was expected, produced a slam dunk -- to take his personal to score a match high 25 -- and effectively sealed the issue in Iran's favor.
Philippines, thus, were left on the defeated side despite a splendid 33-24 advantage in the fourth quarter. With most of their mainstays forced out either due to injuries or fouls -Kerby Raymondo for five personal fouls and Donaldo Hontiveros for two technical fouls - Philippines had staged a gallant fight back, riding on Michael Pennisi's sudden strike of form from the perimeter. But Kamrany's show of calm at the time of stormy moves by most of the players, on either side, dealt a severe blow to Filipino hopes.
That last minute show tactical sense, along with an overall domination of the game and scoring in the first three quarters was to Iran's advantage.
"I'm really proud of the way my boys fought back. It was virtually from a no-hope situation that we had to fight after losing our key players due to various reasons," Philippines coach Vincent 'Chot' Reyes said.
"Pennisi and Alapag were brilliant in opening up their defense and Gabriel was magical inside," Reyes said.
Iran coach Toromon Rijko called it "a combination of nervous brains and tired legs."
"Our game was definitely not up to our expected standards. But I think the way we held them back in the final quarter showed we were the better team overall," the Serbian added.
"But I'm sure we can play much better."
Iran 75 (Mahammad Nikkha 25, Mahdi Kamrany 12) bt Philippines 69 (Kerby Raymondo 15, Jim Alapag 12). Quarterwise: 19-14, 30-25, 51-36.