MANILA, Philippines – When the Philippines finally beat Iran in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship last year, it felt like a sigh of relief for the entire country.
The Iranians, with their superiority in height and underrated international experience, had given Gilas Pilipinas fits the two years prior: in the finals of the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, and at the 2014 Asian Games - a win that extended their winning streak over the Filipinos to 4 games.
So when Gilas beat Iran last year thanks in large part to Jayson Castro and Andray Blatche’s performances, the victory felt sweeter than usual.
Unfortunately for LA Tenorio, he wasn’t able to be a part of it.
“Personally, it’s a big thing for me to show that we can beat Iran and the big players of Iran,” he told Rappler in Tagalog after Gilas practice on Sunday, June 5, when asked about his anticipation for the upcoming tune-up games against the Iranians this week.
Tenorio requested a leave of absence from national team duty last year, choosing instead to rest after serving Gilas for 4 straight years, with PBA conferences in between.
The last time Tenorio played for a Gilas team that beat Iran was back in the 2011 William Jones Cup, when they won 73-59 in Taiwan.
The memory of settling for silver during the FIBA Asia Championship in Manila 3 years ago still fresh on his mind, Tenorio explained that “It’s different when we’re here and we beat them.”
“Going to this game,” he also said, “actually I don’t have that much expectations compared to the time when we faced them [before]. Although, of course they’re our rivals, we still want to beat them, because we want to prove we can really beat them.”
With Iran (Turin, Italy) and the Philippines (Manila) slotted in different Olympic Qualifying tournaments this year, chances are both countries won’t face in a FIBA contest in 2016, making their tune-up games on Tuesday, June 7 (closed door) and on Wednesday, June 8 (at Araneta Coliseum) important affairs.
The Iran national team is already in the Philippines, but will be without key players Hamed Haddadi, Mehdi Kamrani, and Sammad Nikkhah Bahrami. Nonetheless, the team's depth and firepower will make it challenging for Gilas.
“More than beating Iran, is for us to execute what we’ve been able to do the past weeks of practice,” Tenorio said of the contests' significance.
“I’m excited,” he later added. “I’m not that nervous, but I’m excited, I’m looking forward to play against Iran again. Hopefully what we show is good.” – Rappler.com