TEHRAN, MAY 15, 2007
(BULLETIN) The San Miguel-RP Team lost to Iran, 88-101, Sunday, but coach Chot Reyes maintains more positive things are in store for the Nationals in the 18th FIBA -Asia Champions Cup at the Azadi Sports Complex here.

"We have yet to play our best while they (Iranians) played as well as they can play," said Reyes after the loss that spoiled the Nationalsí debut in the eight-nation tournament known as Asiaís premier club championship.

"Still, I think our guys did pretty well, considering two of our main players in Mark (Caguioa) and Danny (Seigle) havenít played in an international competition before. This being our first international competition as a team, we viewed this as an initial test of our focus, energy and teamwork and although we lost, I think the team passed," he added.

Itís now a matter of bouncing back and the Nationals can do that Monday against the Astana Tigers of Kazakhstan in a game set at 8:45 p.m. (1:15 a.m. Tuesday, Manila time).

The Kazakhs themselves have rebounded from a 70-94 loss to Syriaís Al Jalaa last Saturday by handily beating Bahrainís Al Musarraq, 96-74, Sunday.

"Kazakhstan is an entirely different challenge. They have two Russian imports and though they are tall, they are mobile. Also, their wingmen have found their touch after struggling against Syria," said Reyes.

"But the real challenge is how our boys react after that loss to Iran. Ganyan talaga sa international competitions, you donít have much time to adjust. Again, our focus, energy and teamwork will be tested."

Besides, Kazakhstan does not have a really hulking giant like Iranís, one who proved to be as lethal as feared and, combined with the other perks for being host, propped the Iranians into dominating the match from the start and into their second straight win in Group B.

Joseph Garth, who proved to be a 7-foot-3, 330-lb behemoth from the Dominican Republic, had 39 points and 12 rebounds to lead the hostsí Saba Battery Club to follow up to its 78-48 manhandling of Bahrain on Saturday.

Garth was so dominating with his overall inside presence that RP big men Asi Taulava, Mick Pennisi and Enrico Villanueva were virtually powerless in containing him and all had aches and pains to show for their futile efforts.

"Iím the biggest guy in the PBA and Iíve never ever before had to hold off somebody with two hands," said the 6í9, 260-lb Taulava.

"He hurt my (right) shoulder on his first spin against me," said Pennisi, a known bruiser for Red Bull. "So the next time up, I gave him a hard slap and itís my whole arm that stung. I go, ĎOh, Iím sorryí and he just brushes it off like a fly."

But like Reyes, Taulava remains upbeat his team will accomplish its ultimate mission of doing well here and using the experience as springboard for next weekís SEABA tilt and Julyís FIBA-Asia championship.

"Theyíre not gonna have somebody that big, that strong, that solid in the FIBA-Asia," said the Talk íN Text center.

Dondon Hontiveros had 23 points and Caguioa 19 for the Nationals, who came out tight but flashed some of their fiery form in the second half to make a game of it.

That charge was only a spark, however.

In all, it was Garth who was the biggest difference, with his mini-hooks and backboard support-bending dunks. He also caused many of the Nationals to change and miss their shots and forced them to double team, leaving the Iraniansí other shooters with brief open looks that were often enough.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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