UNDERGOAL BLAST Filipino ace Jason Castro eludes Iran’s giant center Hamed Haddadi in an undergoal strike during Monday’s Fiba Asia Championship skirmish won by Gilas Pilipinas, 87-73. Photo from Fiba.com
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GILAS Pilipinas will play Iran in two exhibition games next week, with one of them to be held behind closed doors and the other open to the public at Smart Araneta Coliseum. The games, a virtual grudge encounter, are scheduled on June 7 and 8. Iran and the Philippines have had tough encounters in the recent past, especially after the former became a force with the emergence of world-class players like Hammed Haddadi, Mikha Khamrani and flamboyant swingman Nikkha Bahrami. ADVERTISEMENT Gilas has seen injuries take out key players but welcomed the return of naturalized center Andray Blatche last Saturday. The Filipinos and the Iranians, though, would not be playing each other in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila, slated July 5 to 11, as Iran will see action in the qualifier’s Italian leg. June Mar Fajardo was expected back in practice last night, while Jeff Chan is still far from being 100 percent because of a groin injury. Marcio Lassiter, Gilas’ premier outside gun along with the lefty Chan, is also out of commission with a bad case of the flu. Blatche is raring to have another go at the 7-foot-2 Haddadi, though. “I’ve played him two times in the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association) in the past season, though we didn’t guard each other,” Blatche said in an earlier interview. “But it (this meeting) should be fun.” The Philippines won the last clash between the two regional powers, with Blatche taking Haddadi to school and Jason Castro hitting his stride in an 87-73 victory in the Fiba Asia Championship last year in Changsha, China. Blatche dominated Haddadi on the inside while Castro hit shots from inside and out in winning his match-up with Khamrani.