Cone: We know Iran would be tougher than Qatar
Published on October 3, 2023

HANGZHOU — Gilas Pilipinas coach Tim Cone doesn’t need to be reminded that the Qatar team they outclassed on Monday is nowhere near the caliber of Jordan, which beat them by double digits on Saturday or, for that matter, the opponent they are about to face at on Tuesday for a seat in the semifinals: Iran.

“We don’t care, we’re taking it one game at a time,” he said before the ride back to the hotel after the Qatar game at the Zhejiang University Zijingang Gymnasium, the secondary venue for men’s basketball in the 19th Asian Games.

“We don’t care about the last game, we don’t care about this game. As long as we get a W, we’re not gonna compare opponents.”

The past belongs to the past, Cone believes. Even the immediate ones.

“We don’t worry about Jordan anymore. Like I said, we have to earn our way back into playing them again in the finals,” he said. “I think they’re gonna make the finals pretty easily, We just know we have a much tougher opponent tomorrow, than we did today, in Iran.”

With the “short turnaround” leading to their next game, the Nationals had a closed-door film viewing after dinner with no practice scheduled the following morning.

“We’re not gonna try and practice ‘cause if we did, we’ll just wear ourselves out,” Cone said. 

“We gotta be fresh, fresh-legged. Those guys [Iranians] are coming off two days of rest, that’s their big edge against us. That’s why it was so important that we don’t extend Justin [Brownlee] and June Mar [Fajardo] and Scottie [Thompson] too much so they could be fresh when we meet them.”

Brownlee played just the first 8:43 minutes of the Qatar game, Fajardo for 16:50 overall and Thompson for 13:50.

Iran no longer has the its longtime 7-foot-2 center Hamed Haddadi, who has retired. Neither will the prolific Nikkhah Bahrami and Mohammad Jamshidi be around.

But the new edition Iran team remains formidable, with 27-year-old Navid Rezaeifar, its top scorer, center Meisam Mirzaei, who has taken over Haddadi’spost, and backup guard Mohammadsina Vahedi leading the way.

Gilas hotshot Calvin Oftana, who hit three straight 3-point shots before getting elbowed in the mouth, is fine, showing off his rearranged front teeth after film viewing Monday night to PBA chairman Ricky Vargas, who just flew back to Hangzhou from Manila for the Iran game.