Boxscores | Photo gallery | Video interview with Toroman RAJKOV
TOKUSHIMA (FIBA Asia Championship) - A solid performance early in the game providing the perfect impetus, Iran coasted through to a 75-62 win over Middle Asian rivals Kazakhstan in the second semifinals on Saturday.
Iran's maiden win set up the first ever all-West Asian final of the Championship.
Iran, helped Mahdi Kamrany and Hamed Eslamieh who both scored 14 points apiece, ran a 26-7 lead by the end of the first quarter. A position of comfort, from where they never looked back.
A well worked out plan to pressurize the rival shooters, ensured Kazakh scoring machine Anton Ponomarev was restricted to merely four points. Yevgeniy Issakov and Rustam Yargaliyew too remained rather defused by the Iranian defense.
"We had come well prepared," said Iran coach Toroman Rajkov.
"I think we had an excellent first half," the Serb said.
"But the lead we built in the first half was a little too big for our own comfort. During the break, I had to remind repeatedly my players to keep their focus. Some of them had started to even celebrate," he said.
"It's quite difficult to maintain the focus when such leads get built up. Most of them had already started to think about the next match," he added.
Talking of the final, Rajkov said "the game would be of high intensity and the best game of the Championship."
"Lebanon is a very respectable team. Far more experienced. The key is to hold back Fadi and Vogel, who according to me is the best player of the Championship. But I know that's easier than done considering the form they are in. But we have our plans worked out," he said.
Kazakh coach Vitaliy Strebkov said "we came here as the underdogs and we entered the semifinals. I think that's a good result."
"I truly think we have achieved more than what we expected before the start of the Championship. And this quite young and ambitious. It will go a long way," he said.
Iran 75 (Mahdi Kamrany 14, Hamed Eslamieh 14, Mohammad Nikkah 12) bt Kazakhstan 62 (Dmitriy Kornovnikov 17, Mikhail Yevstigneyev 12). Quarterwise: 26-7, 44-19, 64-37.