INCHEON, Korea—A close defeat by Gilas Pilipinas to Iran in basketball on Thursday darkened the skies of this city where Filipinos are still hoping for the gold medal to come from any sport that could still produce a miracle in the 17th Asian Games.
But hopes remain in boxing where two more Filipinos advanced with first round wins before two more pugs were to aim for victories later in the night.
The men’s compound team in archery also has a chance at the bronze medal that could up the Philippine count which stayed at two silvers and a bronze courtesy of the wushu warriors.
But that loss in basketball was most felt by the overflowing Filipino crowd at the Hwaesong Sports Complex Gymnasium, where Gilas Pilipinas once again bowed to the Iranians, 68-63, in their very first meeting after their Fiba Asia title match won by the Iranians in Manila.
The Filipinos were able to keep the game close throughout, and for a while, their string of massive losses to the Iranians appeared headed to an end when Gilas Pilipinas surprisingly led the FIBA Asia champions, 60-53, midway through the final period on a split free throw by Mark Pingris.
But Mahdi Kamrani, Iran’s smallest man on the court, delivered the killer blows that put his team back on its feet, stringing six straight points capped by a three in an 8-0 run and the Philippines lost its grip on the lead just like that at 60-61.
Junemar Fajardo, an agile big man touted to be the future of Philippine basketball, fizzled in his showdown with NBA veteran Hamed Ehadadi, who still came up with 18 points and 15 rebounds, despite several defenders, including Marcus Douthit and Pingris, thrown in his face. The 6’10” Fajardo had a measly 2 points and a solitary rebound in 13 minutes of play.
But to Gilas’collective credit, it was their most tenacious showing against the Asian powerhouse in years, as they set the tempo of the game from the second to the final frames after a flat first period.
The Philippines is still in the thick of things in the sport it loves. The loss did not matter much but for the next pairings which are still awaited until after the completion of the other matches last night.
The archery compound team of Ian Chipeco, Earl Benjamin Yap, Paul Marton dela Cruz and Jose Ferdinand Adriano has the chance to give the Philippines another bronze medal when they face the team of Iran on Saturday.
They earned that right when they defeated Chinese-Taipei, 229-226, in the quarterfinals and Laos, 225-214, in the 1/8 eliminations.
They lost the semifinals Match 1 by a hairline to Korea, 228-227.
The women’s compound team of Amaya Amparo Cojuangco, Joann Tabanag and Abbigail Tindugan was eliminated earlier by the team from Chinese-Taipei, 215-226.
The boxers continued with their run with Wilfredo Lopez and Ian Clark Bautista scoring convincing wins.
Using right and left straights with impunity, Lopez emerged a 2-1 winner over Aziz Achilov of Turkmenistan in the middleweight class while Bautista proved too much for Mohamad Shamon of Jordan, pounding out a 3-0 win in the flyweight division at the Seonhak Gymnasium.
The two advanced to the round-of-16, joining countrymen Mario Fernandez and Charly Suarez who also posted big wins in the opening rounds of the lightweight and bantamweight divisions, respectively, last Wednesday.
Set to make his Asian Games debut later Thursday is Olympian Mark Anthony Barriga who opens his campaign in the light flyweight class against Hussin Al Masri of Syria. Also fighting later Thursday is light welterweight Dennis Galvan, the sixth member of the men’s team, who takes on Chinzorig Baatarsukh of Mongolia.
The golfers are trying to hang on, with the women’s team led by Princess Superal starting their bid at third place with 139, behind Thailand’s 135 and host Korea’s 138.
Superal turned in a 69 in a tie with Katsu Minami of Japan and Kitty Tam of Hong Kong.
Supamas Sangchan of Thailand leads the pack with a 67, followed by Soyoung Lee of Korea and Budsabakorn Sukapan of Thailand who both had 68s.
The men’s team, however, struggled on Day 1 when they turned in a 218, good for ninth behind leaders Chinese-Taipei and Korea (205).
The best Filipino in the men’s individual game was Justin Raphael Quiban who submitted a 71 at the Dream Park Country Club, where Cheng Tsun Peng of Chinese-Taipei sizzled with a 66.
Rowers Alvin Amposta and Roque Abala only managed eighth place in the men’s doubles sculls Final B.
Triathlete Ma. Claire Adorna placed seventh in her first try at the Asian Games, clocking two hours, nine minutes and five seconds—a new Philippine record, in placing seventh behind gold medalist Ai Ueda of Japan who was only seven minutes and 18 seconds faster.
Her male counterpart, Nikko Bryan Heulgas was only at 11th place 10 minutes and six seconds behind gold medal winner Yuichi Hosoda, also of Japan.
Veteran Frederick Ong and rookie Enrico Lorenzo Hernandez emerged as the best-placed Filipino tandem in bowling after morning play in men’s doubles at the Anyang Hogye Gymnasium, shooting 1218 and 1131, respectively, for a 2349 total, good for eighth place, 153 pins behind the leading Japanese duo.
Yoshida Daisuke shot 1283 pinfalls in six games while Sasaki Tomoyuki added 1219 for a combined 2502 total and the provisional lead going into the afternoon session where the tandem of former world champion Biboy Rivera and rookie Kenneth Chua is set to play.
The other Pinoy tandem of Benshir Layoso and rookie Jo Mar Jumapao combined for 2169 pinfalls, good for 19th place after the morning session.
Thailand and Chinese-Taipei have grabbed the first two gold medals up for grabs in men’s and women’s singles, respectively, with 10 more gilds at stake in doubles, trios, team of five, all events, and Masters.
In tennis, the mixed doubles tandem of Ruben Gonzales and Katharina Lehnert defeated the Nepalese pair of Anne Mathema and Dawa Sonam Sherpa, 6-0, 6-1.
Treat Huey and Denise Dy also swamped the Hong Kong pair of Wong Chun-hun and Katherine Cheng, 6-2, 6-4.
Those wins made up for the losses of Lehnert (to Japan’s Ori Hizumi, 6(4)-7(7), 5-7) and JP Tierro (to Chung Hyeon of Korea, 0-6, 3-6), in the second round of the women and men’s singles matches, respectively.