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Melvyn López: “We fulfilled our duty”
SANTO DOMINGO (FIBA Basketball World Cup Americas Qualifiers 2019) —The Dominican Republic will be one of the 32 teams in China, ending their participation in Group F with a record of 7 victories and 5 defeats (19 points), and clenching their ticket after being the best fourth team in Groups E and F of the Americas Qualifiers.
Like this, Melvyn López leads the Caribbean team to their third, and second consecutive, World Cup (Spain 2014 and Philippines 1978).
“I'm blessed and fortunate. We dedicate this qualification to the Dominican people,” said the Dominican coach minutes after ending the encounter they lost against Brazil, 71-63, but that earned them the qualification.
“Today's game was a match that we had to play with pride, with dignity. We went out to give it all out of respect for the game. I'm very satisfied. We were close to winning the game with a defensive effort. We fought throughout the encounter and I'm very proud,” he added.
The path of the Dominicans to the Qualifiers started with four consecutive victories, including the one against Canada, who ended first in the group, 88-76. Then, the Canadians took their undefeated status after winning, 97-61, so the final record for the Dominican Republic is 4 victories and 2 defeats at home, and 3 triumphs and 3 losses as visitors.
“Criticism makes us grow, we're grateful to everyone that pays attention to this national team. The most popular national team in this country is the adult national basketball team,” said Melvyn.
Visibly emotional, the coach said: “I feel like I accomplished something. I was handed a team with an objective. For better or for worse we accomplished what we came here to do. I have a lot of respect for the guys that won their ticket to the World Cup. Hats off to all the players that participated in this cycle.”
Eloy Vargas, the most outstanding player of the match against Brazil, with 15 points and 9 rebounds, played 10 of the 12 games with the national team. He was only absent from the fifth qualifying window, where his team fell against Brazil and defeated Chile as visitors. He was also the outstanding shooter of his team on two occasions — on his debut he scored 19 points against the Virgin Islands.
“This is my second consecutive year in a World Cup and it’s marvelous. All credit is due to all the players of these six windows. These were two of the best games in the Qualifiers. I was more present in the offense and Melvyn gave me the confidence to encourage the team in the defense and in the offense.”
The South American team also achieved their goal in the last stage of the Qualifiers, where they won both their games —against the Virgin Islands and this one —and ended third, with a 9-3 record, in Group F. Now, they’ll play in their eighteenth World Cup in a row since 1950, as one of the only two national teams to have participated in all world events -- joined by the United States.
Coach Aleksandar Petrović chose a totally different team from the one that started the game against the islanders. The incursion of Anderson Varejão — recovered from a sprain — and Rafa Luz, Leandro Barbosa, Marquinhos Souza and Lucas Dias completed the five that gave the victory to their team.
“I'm a European coach that arrived at Brazil to do something different and this game reflects that. We played with a lot of character. The mistakes in the free throws (14 in total) and the failures in the rebounds didn't allow us a calmer victory. In the last minutes we defended and went out to attack. It was an important game because I had some doubts, but the game answered them and in five months, when I draft the list with all the available players, Brazil will have a great team for the World Cup,” added the Croatian coach.
“Dominicana deserved to win the ticket. They're among the great teams that’ll be in China. They played and defeated a strong team like Canada in the Qualifiers (88-76 in the month of November,” Petrović pointed out.
The road of the Amazonian team in this new qualifying format included five victories and a sole defeat at home, four wins and two losses as visitors, for a record of 9-3 in 12 games.
“We knew we were qualified, but this was a game where we all wanted to leave a good impression, play well and win. That's why since the very beginning both teams went out to give their all. We were steady in the defense by the end and that's why we won. I congratulate the Dominican Republic for their qualification,” assured Flamengo’s Varejão, who apart from dominating the rebounds, with 12, added 13 points and was the most efficient player per game with 18. He recorded 11.6 points and 8.3 rebounds in 10 of Brazil’s 12 games.
For his part, Leandrinho Barbosa was the greatest scorer of the team in the general statistics, with an average of 14.7 points in five games. He analyzed: “It was a very important game to start to prepare for the World Cup, and it was a very hard and difficult game. The Dominican team are very good, but fortunately we took the win in the end.”