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Sore loser?
HANGZHOU, China — Iran coach Demir Hakan was a picture of frustration after absorbing an 83-84 loss to Gilas Pilipinas in the quarterfinals of the men’s basketball competition of the 19th Asian Games.

Hakan was obviously in a foul mood as he questioned the presence of “three naturalized players” representing the Philippines in this quadrennial event.

He said they are fresh from competing in the FIBA Basketball World Cup and the Filipinos only had one import back then.

“We were in the World Cup a month ago, and now, I see three naturalized players for the Philippines,” Hakan, a veteran international mentor from Turkey, said during the post-match press conference.

“I am not saying this because we lost. I am just saying this because I have to defend my team. I think it’s unfair.”

Asian Games rules have it that teams are allowed to have naturalized players for as long as they hold passports of the country they wish to represent.

Gilas has only two naturalized players in Justin Bronwlee and Ange Kouame.

The third? Maybe Hakan is referring to CJ Perez, Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter or Chris Newsome, who are all holders of Philippine passports and considered as local players in the Philippine Basketball Association.

Clearly, the Iranian mentor got his information wrong.

Instant fan
HANGZHOU, China — Despite sounding like a sore loser after questioning the presence of “three naturalized players” of Gilas Pilipinas, Iran coach Demir Hakan was a good coach.

No less than Gilas coach Tim Cone sang praises for the seasoned Turkish mentor, saying that he made all the right adjustments in the fourth period that gave the Filipinos a serious scare before booking an 84-83 victory.

Cone admitted that he got outcoached by Hakan in the final stretch.

“The Iranian team was really well-coached,” Cone admitted, saying that the box-and-one defense that Iran threw at Justin Brownlee in the final stretch nearly doomed their chances.

“They threw out that box-and-one for Justin. We had a very short preparation time and we couldn’t prepare for everything. We made some simple turnovers that gave them momentum and they shot the lights out and it came down to the last play and we were lucky to win.”

“Like I said, when they threw that wrench with the box-and-one, we kinda struggled.”

Truly, Cone — the winningest mentor in the Philippine Basketball Association with 25 titles and two grand slams — appreciates greatness whenever he spots one.

Ginebra! Ginebra!
HANGZHOU, China — The never-say-die spirit made popular by Barangay Ginebra San Miguel was on full display when Gilas Pilipinas survived with an 84-83 win over Iran in the quarterfinals of the men’s basketball event of the 19th Asian Games.

Justin Brownlee, Ginebra’s resident import, kept Gilas afloat in the crucial stretch while Tim Cone made all the right calls with the help of LA Tenorio and Richard del Rosario from the bench.

Scottie Thompson, the Kings’ do-it-all swingman, also saw heavy minutes for Gilas, who quelled the Iranians furious rally in the final two minutes to pull off the cardiac victory.

“It was the NSD (never-say-die) spirit that kept us alive,” Bronwlee said after running away with one of the biggest victories of his national team career.

It wasn’t an easy battle for Brownlee and Gilas as they marched into battle less than 24 hours after beating Qatar in the classification match.

Although the Filipinos were in control in the first three quarters, they looked exhausted in the crucial stretch like a car that is about to bog down after running out of gas.

But Brownlee said their fighting spirit pulled them through.

“We just wanted to keep showing up and play harder even if we’re tired and down,” he said.

“We just wanted to continue fighting and win this match.”

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