Asian Games: Philippines out, China on basketball brink

Asian Games: Philippines out, China on basketball brink
China's Wang Zhelin shooting over Jordan's players during their men's Asia Championships basketball game in Manila.

INCHEON, South Korea - The Philippines crashed out and seven-time winners China will almost certainly follow after losing 75-67 to gold medal favourites Iran in the last Asian Games basketball quarter-finals pool matches Sunday.

The last time China failed to win an Asian Games medal was in 1970 and they have competed in nine consecutive finals since 1978, winning seven of them.

The damage was really done 24 hours earlier for a talented but young and inexperienced Chinese team, when they squandered a nine-point half-time lead to be upset by Japan, 79-72.

"We didn't expect that Japan could beat China," Iran's captain Mohammad Nikkah Bahrami told AFP after a powerful display which saw him lead his team with 14 points, seven assists and three rebounds.

"China are a very good team. I'm telling you, I just played against them. They have a lot of good big guys who can shoot the ball very well."

China's head coach Gong Luming was optimistic that his young side would learn from their run to the quarter-finals in the tournament.

"I know that our players have to improve their shooting. National and international competitions are vastly different," he said. "Since most of them were playing their first Asian Games they will become better players for this experience."

China's giant 7ft 1in (2.17m) Zhou Qi registered game highs with 17 points and 11 rebounds, but Iran were up 11-9 after five minutes and they never relinquished the lead.

"I don't know what happened to them (China) last night," Nikkah Bahrami added.

"They lost this competition because they lost last night. They knew they were going to have a hard time against us. They shouldn't have taken it easy against Japan, I think."

Iran's Slovakian coach Mehmed Becirovic echoed his captain's words.

"Yes it is a surprise China and the Philippines results, this was not forecast," he said.

"I expect it now to be Iran against South Korea in the final and that will be very tough against them with home support.

"China put a lot of energy into the game but they are young and need to learn how to play."

Meanwhile another fancied team, the Philippines, are definitely out of medal contention, despite beating Kazakhstan 67-65.

After defeats to Qatar and South Korea, the "Gilas Pilipinas" needed to win by 11 points and then hope Korea beat Qatar in the last Group H game to go through in second spot in the pool.

"We won the game, but really we lost," said a dejected head coach Chot Reyes, who restored Marcus Douthit to his starting line-up after controversially benching the American-born naturalised Filipino on Saturday.

Douthit responded by notching 18 points and 14 rebounds, light years ahead of Friday's performance in the defeat to Qatar after which Reyes accused Douthit of "quitting" on his team and said "he can go home if he wants".

The basketball-mad Philippines have not won a medal at the Asian Games since 1998, when they took the bronze.

China's slim hopes now rest on Mongolia upsetting Japan in the last match in Group G later, a result that would seem highly unlikely given that China crushed the surprise quarter-finalists from across their northern border 108-67 on Friday.

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