Boxscores | Photo gallery | Iran celebration video | Video interview with Hamed EHADADI
TOKUSHIMA (FIBA Asia Championship) - An inspired Iran raised their game a couple of notches up to douse a red-hot Lebanon 74-69 in the final on Sunday.
Iran's triumph in Asia's first ever all-West Asian title contest booked their ticket to the Beijing Olympics 2008, while Lebanon were consigned to playing the FIBA Olympic qualifiers. Iran also became only the fourth team to win the Championship overall. Only China, Korea and Philippines have won the Championship before. Iran, of course, were playing their maiden final.
Lebanon, who became the first West Asian nation to play the final in 2001, thus had to be content with the runners-up slot for the third time. Lebanon had also lost the 2005 final, going down to China both times.
The tautness of tension was almost visible on the face of the knowledgeable who had gathered at the Asty as two West Asian powerhouses indulged in a no-holds barred contest. High on stakes was the battle of wits between what arguably are the two brainiest coaches to have trained teams in the Championship history.
Dragan Raca, of course had the Lebanese strength and system to depend upon, and Toroman Rajkov rode on Iranian inspiration as the two gave no quarter nor sought any for the entire duration of the high-voltage encounter.
Hamed Ehadadi's incredible long ranger from the center-line, probably the play of the tournament, which almost the coincided with the half-time hooter was classic example for Iran's inspiration.
The 218cm center, who top scored the game with 31 points, was the tallest player on court final, apart from in the literal sense. And deservingly, the Paykan Tehran player also sealed the issue in his favor triggering roars of celebration among his bench as well as the bunch of fans who had traveled all the way across the continent.
Not that Lebanon were any less in intensity. But with Joseph Vogel concentrating more on defense and Fadi El-Khatib playing in an unusual point-guard position, Lebanon did a lot of running. Only that their efforts could end merely in rebounds. Rony Fahed top scored for Lebanon with 23 points.
Iran 74 (Rony Fahed 23, Fadi El-Khatib 19, Joseph Vogel 13) bt Lebanon 69 (Hamed Ehadadi 31, Mohammad Nikkah 15). Quarterwise: 21-19, 40-34, 56-54.