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PR N°51 - Venezuela win 2015 FIBA Americas Championship for first-ever continental title
MEXICO CITY (2015 FIBA Americas Championship) - Venezuela made history on Saturday by winning the FIBA Americas Championship for the first time in their history after defeating Argentina, 76-71, in the Final of the 2015 edition at the Palacio de los Deportes in Mexico City.
Playing great defense and displaying intelligent play on the offensive end, Nestor "Che" Garcia's team finished the night proudly and loudly shouting "Champions".
Argentina took an 11-0 lead to start the game as they worked the ball into the low post and Luis Scola - who was honoured as the championship's all-time leading scorer prior to the game - kept his team comfortably on top.
Venezuela looked out of ideas offensively but a three-pointer by Windi Graterol beat the first quarter buzzer to cut the deficit to 20-13.
The Venezuelans continued to claw back in the second quarter, getting within 20-19 thanks to strong defense. A pair of free-throws by David Cubillan gave them their first lead of the night, 30-28, to end the first half.
Garcia's men carried over that same intensity into the second half as they went up 34-28. Argentina were suffering against their opponents' stifling zone defense, scoring just eight points in a 14-minute stretch.
Nestor Colmenares' return in the final frame was decisive as Venezuela reclaimed the lead in the first three minutes of the period. A good defensive effort on Scola and four consecutive points saw the Venezuelans go up by three, 57-54.
Selem Safar converted a four-point play to edge Argentina back in front, 58-57, but Venezuela did not lose their composure and instead stepped up the defensive intensity, scoring six unanswered points to pull away, 63-58.
Argentina's fighting spirit allowed them to get within two with 10 seconds left to play, but a pair of free throws by Dwight Lewis sealed the game and the win for the Venezuela, who wrote a new chapter in the country's basketball history.
Scola, who led all players in scoring (21.1 points) and ranked second in rebounding (10.1 rebounds), was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, presented by Tissot.
2015 FIBA Americas Championship All-Star Five (from left to right): Gustavo Ayon (MEX), Andres Nocioni (Argentina), Andrew Wiggins (Canada), Heissler Guillent (Venezuela) and Luis Scola (Argentina)
2015 FIBA Americas Championship Final Standings:
5. Puerto Rico
6. Dominican Republic
By virtue of reaching the Final, Venezuela and Argentina qualified for the 2016 Rio Games, while Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico booked places in the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (OQTs).
Go to fiba.com/Americas2015 for full coverage of the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship.