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Iran remains unbeaten despite of expulsion in men's wheelchair basketball
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14:02, September 09, 2008

Iran overcame one of their best player's disqualification due to a technical foul called during the half-time to beat Japan 69-50 and remained unbeaten after three Group A matches of Paralympic wheelchair basketball at the USTB Gymnasium on Tuesday.

Iranian center Morteza Gharibloo, second top scorer and top rebounder of the team during the first two matches, was disqualified when the referees found out his wheelchair's cushion was thicker than 5cm, the maximum allowed for a 4.0-point player.

Gharibloo's teammates went on with their winning streak, led by guard Alireza Ahmadi. The guard scored 17 points and helped Adel Torfi Meneshidi add 14 points and 15 rebounds.

"We met before the beginning of the second half and we said to ourselves we had to play for him. There was something bigger than our own will, something we don't know exactly what is, but it helped us. And also the players that replaced him were great," said Ahmadi over Gharibloo's disqualification.

"It was really hard to recover not only because we were losing one of our best players but also because the atmosphere was very difficult to control."

Four other Iranian players, including Gharibloo scored eight or more points.

Japan showed some reactions at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Led by Reo Fujimoto, fouled out with five minutes left on the clock after scoring 11 points, Japan rallied to have some hope in 46-41, but their own mistakes gave Iran the chance to recover a double-digit margin.

"I think our minds were weaker than theirs," said Japan's forward Hiroaki Kozai.

"They have very good center players. We couldn't compete with them.

"They have long arms so we couldn't reach the ball a lot of the time. Next time we have to try to grab and pass the ball to our teammates harder so that they can't get it."

"We have to find our bad points from today, like weak defence, and work on that," added the forward.

"Our height is not as tall as Iran's. Their field goal percentage is very high and they have long arms. Their speed is also faster than ours. In all, our condition isn't as good as theirs," echoed Japan's center Reo Fujimoto.

"I made a few mistakes during the game and my strength isn't good today."

"We lack experience. Our starting line-up is quite young, while Iran sent five veterans. I think this is one of the main reasons we lost the game," said Akio Okuhara, Japan's coach.

Iran embarked on a 23-9 run in the last five minutes to surprisingly place in the first position of group A after three matches.

Top four teams in either group of six teams will move on to the quarterfinals after round-robin competition.

With three wins over three matches, Iran has qualified for the quarterfinals. Iran will now face Germany for a favorite place in eliminations, while Japan will challenge the reigning Paralympic champion Canada.

Both matches will be played at the National Indoor Stadium on Wednesday.

Source: Xinhua

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