ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship): Korea gave a classic example for the need to fight continuously and completed a successful resurgence to post a 96-93 win over a haughty Iran and entered the finals for the ninth time in a FIBA Asia U18 Championship on Saturday.
The win also booked Korea’s entry into the 2012 FIBA U19 World Championship at Czech Republic.
Having trailed for the better part of the game, Korea went ahead for the first time in the active part of the game with just about three minutes left on the clock.
Choi Junyong’s (pic above) three-point play gave Korea a point’s lead and Heo Hoon burnt the basket with a characteristic sizzler from beyond the arc and Korea suddenly looked a different lot. The hunted Korea had indeed turned the hunter.
Vahid Dalirzahan and Saleh Foroutan had combined in tandem to make up for point guard Sajjad Mashayekhi’s forgettable night as Iran reeled in 10 unanswered points towards the end of the first quarter.
Mehran Hatami’s boys kept their lead after that till Choi Junyong’s effort clipped the high-flying and growingly complacent Iran to earth. And buried them.
“We knew we could always come back. We just had to keep playing our game,” said Korea coach Kim Young Rae.
“They (Iran) did indeed played extremely hard, but I had the confidence in my boys,” he added heaving a sigh of relief.
“We just kept the faith in ourselves,” said Korea guard Heo Hoon.
Choi Junyong finished with a colossal game-high 38 points, with Lee Jonghyun a steady ship under the basket for 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Dalirzahan had 20 points to lead Iran, but squandered a routine lay-up with less than a minute left.
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia