Iran has been the dominant nation in William Jones Cup play since 2009, and it added yet another accolade to its impressive track record Saturday by clinching its fifth gold medal at the event in the past seven years.
The Iranian squad defeated Russia 78-54 to finish the tournament 7-1, with its only loss coming to the United States. Team USA fell short against the Philippines, however, which means Gilas Pilipinas will have an opportunity to win the silver medal Sunday.
Japan and Chinese Taipei A were also victorious on the second-to-last day of the tournament in Taiwan. With just one slate of games left to be played, here is a rundown of Saturday's results, along with a look at the current standings.
|2015 William Jones Cup: Sept. 5 Scores|
|Game||Team 1||Team 2||Score|
|29||Chinese Taipei B||Japan||72-55, Japan|
|31||United States||Philippines||78-74, Philippines|
|32||New Zealand||Chinese Taipei A||86-85, Chinese Taipei A|
|2015 William Jones Cup Standings|
|3||Chinese Taipei A||7||5||2||+28||12|
|9||Chinese Taipei B||7||0||7||-134||7|
Japan 72, Chinese Taipei B 55
After starting the tournament 0-5, Japan continued its recent run of success Saturday by defeating host Chinese Taipei B by a score of 72-55.
Japan scored a big upset over South Korea on Friday, and it was the favored team against a winless Taipei squad Saturday. That change in status may have impacted Japan early, as it trailed by four points at halftime, but the team made adjustments and blew Chinese Taipei B out of the water in the second half, 42-21.
The Japanese side was led by forward Yuki Mitsuhara, who led all scorers with 26 points and nabbed 16 rebounds to boot. No other player cracked double digits in scoring for Japan, but its 36 bench points put Taipei on its heels.
Chinese Taipei B received a fairly strong performance from its bench as well, with Zhou Xiang scoring 19 points, but its five starters combined for a mere 15 points.
Japan is ending its run at the 2015 William Jones Cup on a high note, and it will have a chance to truly put an exclamation point on things if it can upset Russia on Sunday. Chinese Taipei B, on the other hand, is in danger of going winless unless it can pull off a big upset over the Philippines.
If the squad shoots 29 percent from the field like it did against Japan, though, Chinese Taipei B doesn't stand much of a chance in terms of entering the win column.
Iran 78, Russia 54
Iran entered the eighth day of play at the William Jones Cup as the clear best team in the tournament, yet Russia had a chance to put itself in position to win the gold medal. That didn't come to fruition, though, as Iran lived up to the hype and easily defeated Spartak Primorye 78-54.
The Iranian side outscored the Russians in every quarter, including a 31-17 outburst in the third. Mehdi Kamrani was the biggest thorn in Russia's side with 20 points, while Hamed Afagh added 16 points and former Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns center Hamed Haddadi dropped 11 points and secured seven boards.
Dmitrii Uzinskii did his darndest to keep Russia in the hunt with a game-high 23 points, but a lack of support from his teammates left the Russians woefully short of Iran's 78-point mark.
After struggling in last year's William Jones Cup, Iran is champion once again, and there is no question it earned the distinction, with just a single loss in round-robin play.
Iran does not have a game Sunday, which means it will be able to celebrate and enjoy its gold-medal triumph while the other teams in contention for silver and bronze battle it out for a chance to go home with some hardware.
Philippines 78, USA 74
One day after scoring a thrilling 92-88 overtime victory over New Zealand, the Philippines picked up another signature win Saturday by outlasting the United States 78-74.
Gilas Pilipinas were in firm control of the game through three quarters, although they almost gave it away in the fourth. USA Overtake-Select put the pressure on in the fourth frame, with Marquin Chandler, Calvin Warner and Cory Bradford giving the Philippines fits, but Gilas managed to hang on by four.
The Philippines squad wasn't at full strength by any means, with talented point guards Terrence Romeo and Jayson Castro out of action. Calvin Abueva stepped up with 20 points, though, as did Gary David, with a much-needed 13 points off the bench.
With Gilas overcoming the adversity of being without some top players and staving off a late comeback attempt, head coach Tab Baldwin was thrilled about the outcome, according to Musong R. Castillo of Inquirer.net:
Although the team's chances of winning a gold medal went down the drain a couple of days ago with a loss to Iran, it has rebounded nicely with a pair of wins to move within reach of the silver medal.
Gilas will enter Sunday tied with Chinese Taipei A for second place, but due to the fact that they defeated the host nation already, a win over Chinese Taipei B will allow them to clinch silver.
Based on how well the Philippines has played over the course of the tournament and how much mettle it showed in holding off Team USA on Saturday, it is difficult to imagine Gilas Pilipinas falling short against the underdogs Sunday.
Chinese Taipei A 86, New Zealand 84
Chinese Taipei A's chances of winning the silver medal seemed to be totally dashed through three quarters Saturday, as it trailed New Zealand by nine points, but a 36-point showing in the fourth quarter gave it a narrow 86-84 victory.
The win pushed Taipei into a second-place tie with the Philippines, although it will need some help from the other Chinese Taipei team Sunday in order to capture the silver medal.
At the very least, Chinese Taipei A gave itself a great chance to win bronze. Quincy Davis was perhaps the biggest reason for that, as he scored 22 points, including hitting eight of his 10 attempts from the free-throw line.
The Wellington Saints' dynamic duo of Bryan Davis and Eric Devendorf accounted for 37 total points, while Kevin Braswell added 22 off the bench. That wasn't enough, though, as New Zealand's defense was in total disarray during the final quarter.
The loss dropped New Zealand to 2-5, although it could easily have a much better mark than that. Of the Saints' five losses, four of them were by four points or fewer, and they have all been high-scoring affairs.
New Zealand will be left to wonder what could have been when it heads home, but there is no question that Chinese Taipei A earned the victory with perhaps the hottest quarter of any team in the entire tournament.
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