By Eurohoops team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Iran set the tone early and kept things under check until the third quarter. However, Puerto Rico mounted a fantastic comeback after trailing by 17 points and ultimately got the 83-81 win in the first game of Group C.
The trademark fighting spirit of the Puerto Ricans was demonstrated emphatically. Iran had a 70-53 lead with eight minutes left, and Puerto Rico ended up scoring 32 points in the last quarter and winning the game.
David Huertas with two big threes first tied the score at 78 and then gave Puerto Rico the 81-78 lead with 16 seconds left in the game. Hamed Haddadi tied the score with a three at 81 and with four seconds left Javier Mojica beat the buzzer for the 83-81.
“It was a tough shot, he was lucky, but it was also a good shot,” said Haddadi after the game. “We led only in the last minute of the game,” said coach Eddie Casiano, “that says a lot about the game. This is a group that was harshly criticized in Puerto Rico, and I am proud of them. There were many big shots at the end of the game, we made the biggest bucket and – thank God – we got the win”.
Huertas with 32 points was the hero of the night in a game that started with Iran cruising. The Asian team established a 30-16 lead after the end of the first quarter and had almost a 20-point advantage at halftime (49-31).
“I want to give credit to Iran, they played really well, and I am so proud of my teammates but the way we kept fighting,” said Huertas. “There’s no way to describe how I am feeling.”
Haddadi dominated the paint. He finished the game with an impressive double-double (22 p. 16 r.) and also dished four assists. The surprise came from Behnam Yakhchalidehkordi who scored 22 points on 8/12 FG, making six threes.
As Haddadi explained, speaking about the way the game ended: “We were not tired, Puerto Rico just played fast and pushed the ball. Sometimes things don’t get your way, you make turnovers, and that’s happened. There was not a conditioning issue. The only issue we lost the game was turnovers”.
“We were down, and there was no other way for us than to pressure and kept pushing,” added Huertas.
All this effort by Iran proved to be vain as Puerto Rico made history with one of the biggest comebacks in World Cup history.
Photo credit: FIBA.BASKETBALL