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Puerto Rico survived, qualifying to China 2019 is now in their hands
SAN JUAN (FIBA Basketball World Cup Americas Qualifiers 2019) — Puerto Rico suffered, but passed, the test that Argentina put in front of them. Now, the Puerto Ricans must use everything they've learned to stamp their passport to the World Cup on Monday, at home.
In a result that is rarely seen, Puerto Rico defeated Argentina in the overtime, 87-86, in a game that took place in front of a full house Roberto Clemente Coliseum. With this victory, the Boricuas are a triumph away from getting their spot to the FIBA Basketball World Cup. They now register a 7-4 record.
But most importantly, Puerto Rico cancelled the possibility of a point-difference definition for their encounter on Monday, against Uruguay. In other words, the winner of the game between Puerto Ricans and Uruguayans, no matter the difference in points, will achieve the last ticket given by group E of the Americas Qualifiers.
“It was a very fought game. You see a young Argentina, but they're a very structured team and that's the way to play. We paid the price,” said in relief Eddie Casiano, coach for Puerto Rico, who gave away a 10-point advantage with 1:35 remaining on the clock.
In the overtime, with a free throw by Agustín Caffano, Argentina dominated 86-84, with 45.6 seconds left. During the next possession, John Holland scored the three-point shot that would eventually give Puerto Ricans the victory. Argentina went for the win, but Jorge Bryan Díaz blocked Marcos Delía’s attempt, and everything seemed as if the game had ended with a triumph by the hosts.
The court was immediately filled with confetti in an anticipated celebration. According to the officials, there were 0.7 seconds left to play and Argentina retained the ball because the replay showed that Puerto Rican player Carlos Rivera recovered the rebound outside the lines. The encounter was paused for more than 10 minutes while the floor was cleaned.
As the game started again, Lucio Redivo missed a shot from the right side, and the Boricua fans euphorically erupted in cheer.
“It was a crazy game. We're not pleased with the result, but we're proud of what we did,” stated Sergio Hernández, Argentina’s coach. “I didn’t understand what was going on, if the game had finished, if the possession was theirs,” said Hernández about the peculiar end.
Gian Clavell led the winning side's attack with 21 points and was the spark from the bench that scored 46 of the team’s 87 points. Holland contributed 14 units.
.@clavelito04 was 🔥🔥🔥 in @fbpur 🇵🇷's 87-86 victory over @cabboficial 🇦🇷 in #FIBAWC Americas Qualifiers' sixth window with 21 points and 5 rebounds coming off the bench! #ThisIsMyHouse pic.twitter.com/gnrKe6LrcB— Basketball World Cup (@FIBAWC) February 23, 2019
Redivo and Nicolás Brussino were Argentina's best, with 16 points each. Brussino added seven rebounds and seven assists. Argentina (9-2) saw their seven-wins streak being brought to a halt. Now, on Monday, they’ll visit the United States to define the Group E winners.
Puerto Rico came in with an advantage of eight points to the final stretch and didn’t want to yield their domain. With a three-pointer by Holland and a penetrating attack by Clavell put his side comfortably ahead, 70-59, after three minutes of action.
Clavell continued his energy level in the defense by cutting the ball and added a slam dunk, 74-61, that made the Roberto Clemente Coliseum explode.
But Argentina showed why they’ll be one of the spearheads of the Americas in the World Cup. Led by Brussino, the Albicelestes jeopardized the locals, 74-66, with 4:02 left to play, causing Coach Casiano to call for a time-out.
However, Clavell performed again as the elite player he is, and, with an enormous three-pointer, he sentenced the game, 80-70, causing the fans with overflow with joy because there were only 1:35 left on the clock.
Argentina didn’t give up and portrayed one of the best comebacks seen in the Qualifiers. Consecutive three-point shots by Lucas Faggiano and Marcos Mata placed the score 80-78. Clavell scored one of two free throws, but Caffaro achieved two free throws after an offensive rebound, tying the game, 82-82, with three seconds left.
Huertas tried, unsuccessfully, to shoot to win, causing the encounter to last an additional five minutes.
Argentina started the game with a 12-5 advantage, but Puerto Rico responded with a 17-2 rally that put the scoreboard in their favor until Argentina’s dramatic recovery in the final quarter and the overtime.
Puerto Rico's 87 points are their best demonstration in the offense during the Qualifiers since they achieved a hundred units against Mexico, in Monterrey.