After some grueling games, stunning upsets and heartbreaking results, four nations have emerged from the 2013 FIBA Americas tournament as representatives of the continent to the 2014 Basketball World Cup. Puerto Rico, Argentina, Mexico and the Dominican Republic have all booked tickets to Spain next year.
The Dominican Republic earned their berth after 86:78 victory over Uruguay, allowing them entrance into the semifinals with a 5-2 record, the second-best in the tournament after its second stage. Jack Michael Martinez (seen in photo above) led his team with a great performance, scoring 17 points while grabbing 10 rebounds to dominate the opposition. He was one of five Dominican Republic players to score 13 points or more. The multi-pronged attack was more than what the Uruguay defense could handle. The Uruguay squad could not find any answers and the 21-point, 13-rebound effort of Esteban Batista was the lone bright spot in their game. His teammates did not find their flow. Leandro Morales Garcia was the only other player to hit double figures with 16 points.
Puerto Rico has led in the tournament from the beginning and sealed their berth with an 86:85 overtime victory over tournament hosts, Venezuela. Despite their heartbreaking loss, the Venezuelan team was showered with cheers by the home fans. Jose Juan Barea and Renaldo Balkman were just sensational, scoring 30 and 26 points respectively to secure the victory. Donta Smith was a warrior for Venezuela with 26 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.
“The most important thing is that we reached our goal which was to qualify for the World Cup. It was a great effort we made for Puerto Rico, knowing that this makes the whole country very happy. Now we have to fight for a second goal that is to get the gold medal.”, said Paco Olmos, coach of the Puerto Rico national team.
It was a painful, do-or-die game between Argentina and Canada. Argentina’s 73:67 win over Canada gave them an identical 3-3 record, but gave them the tie-break advantage over their rivals from the Northern hemisphere. They were led by Indiana Pacers’ forward Luis Scola, who has just been rock-solid throughout the tournament. The veteran finished the game with 26 points and eight rebounds. The heartbroken Canadian team was crushed and can now only hope for FIBA to select them for one of the four wild card slots.
Mexico was a surprise entrant into the mix. Their strong play that merited them key wins against Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, not only landed them a spot in the World Cup but make them now dark horses to contend for the gold medal in the FIBA Americas. Their 4-2 record opened the door for them to walk into the semis. Gustavo Ayon who is second in the scoring leader board of the tournament with 18.0 ppg and second in the blocks race with 1.4 bpg, has been awesome for his team for majority of the competition.
Here is how the landscape is shaping up so far:
Host Nation: Spain
2012 Olympics Gold Medalists: USA
2013 FIBA Africa Championship: Angola, Egypt, Senegal
2013 FIBA Americas Championship: Puerto Rico, Argentina, Mexico, Dominican Republic
2013 FIBA Asia Championshiop: Iran, Philippines, South Korea
2013 FIBA Oceania Championship: Australia, New Zealand
We’re waiting on the results of the FIBA Eurobasket 2013 which will yield six more participants and four wild card selections which will be selected in December 2013. FIBA shall select four wild cards after all of the continental championships are done. FIBA is prohibited from selecting more than three teams from the same continental zone and to select teams that did not participate in qualifying either through choice or FIBA-mandated suspension.