ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship): Former twice gold medalists Iran scored the first nine points of their Saturday’s Group D Prelim Round game against GCC’s top team Saudi Arabia and were never in any trouble in reaching a 86-54 win, to book their place in the Second Round.
Iran the WABA champions will take on their SEABA counterparts Philippines – both teams have won both their games so far – in clash that will decide who takes the top place in Group D and carry forward all the possible points into Second Round.
Saudi Arabia will take on Kazakhstan in a virtual play off for the third qualifying spot from the Group.
Behnam Yakhchali fired in six of Iran’s first nine points after Vahid Dalirzohan had burnt the netting with his sizzler from beyond the arc went on to lead Iran’s scoring with 31 points.
Dalirzohan sank three three-pointers in all, out of 8 attempts, for his 15 points and along with Yakhchali and Sajjad Mashayekhi surprisingly played for almost 30 minutes apiece.
“Ok. Some of these players were on court for a little longer than we had initially planned. But that was a mistake in terms keeping a watch at the minutes,” said Iran coach Mehran Hatami.
“We anyway wanted these three to get longer court time, but I do concede they stayed a little longer than we planned,” he added.
The minutes otherwise were well spread with the coach of senior NT Memi Becirovic – sitting on the Iranian bench for the first time in an international game – as technical advisor keeping an earnest eye.
“We don’t mean offence to anybody, but this was our game. And we didn’t do well really,” Hatami said raising eyebrows.
“We ran our offenses well, but there were still things to do. One of them being getting Vahid to shoot more,” Hatami said.
“I won’t take a call on how well we are doing, but I can certainly say we progressing,” he said.
Waheed Faqihi’s 18 points led Saudi Arabia, who are now in a do-or-die situation.
“Well, every game is a do-or-die for us,” laughed Saudi Arabia coach Ali Alisanhani.
“Like I said earlier, we will fight all the way and won’t give up easily,” he added.