The Energen Pilipinas national youth team hit its first road bump, dropping its Group D clash against powerhouse Iran, 93-72, in the FIBA Asia Under-18 Championships in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.
Running into a taller and stronger team, the Filipino youths coached by Olsen Racela struggled on the glass and in the post, giving up 24 offensive rebounds and 46 points in the paint as the Iranians gradually put some distance between them and their opponents as they game went on.
Iran led by just five points, 22-17, after the first quarter. The Philippines, behind a pair of free throws and a three-pointer from co-captains Prince Rivero and J-Jay Alejandro, came back to tie the game at 24-all in the second period but Iran brought the lead back up to nine by halftime.
Iran blasted the Philippines in the third period behind 11 points from top scorer Vahid Dalirzahan to enter the fourth quarter with a huge 65-48 lead. They outscored the Filipinos 23-15 in the quarter.
The Filipinos couldn’t come closer than 14 points in the fourth, the last time after a triple from Rey Nambatac that made it 74-60 midway through the quarter. Iran then mounted a 13-5 run to put the game out of reach with 3:22 remaining.
Alejandro led the team with 12 points, but shot just 3-for-16 against the tough Iran defense. Hubert Cani scored 11 while Kyle Suarez added 10 for the Philippines. Energen Pilipinas shot just 41% as a team.
Dalirzahan had 21 points while Hossein Rahmati scored 20 to lead Iran.
Despite the loss, the Philippines will move onto the second round where they will face the qualifiers from Group C, which includes group leader Chinese Taipei.
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