25 August, 2017
03 September
9 Francisco  Cruz  (MEX)
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Puerto Rico vs Mexico: Caribbean rivalry to tip off FIBA AmeriCup 2017

MEDELLIN (FIBA AmeriCup 2017) - One of the most significant rivalries in Caribbean basketball has the honor of initiating the first edition of the FIBA AmeriCup.

The clash between Puerto Rico and Mexico will open the initial phase of the Group A teams, which will face off in the city of Medellin, the capital of the Colombian province of Antioquia. This group also includes the local hosts and Brazil, and will be playing in this stage until Sunday.

“It’ll be a heavy and hard game. The two teams know each other well. It’ll be a very good battle”, pointed out Mexican Forward Lorenzo Mata.

The Aztecs and the Boricuas are not new opponents: they have faced off in hard battles in past years. In 2013, under the direction of Spanish Coach Sergio Valdeolmillos, Mexico surprised the American continents when they won the FIBA Americas, which then was the qualifying ticket to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2014. On that occasion, Mexico defeated Puerto Rico twice, including the final game, a feat they repeated on the 2014 edition of Centrobasket.

After defeating the Puerto Ricans in five consecutive games, the Boricuas managed to get their revenge last summer by winning by one point the Centrobasket Final in Panama City.

A year later, both national teams meet again in an essential game to both their aspirations to reach the only ticket Group A provides to the AmeriCup Final Four, which will be played in Córdoba.

“We have to go with our heads held high and compete. At the end of the day, it's a game and the best shall win. We must be mentally and physically prepared for a team such as Mexico,” said Mike Rosario, Shooting Guard for Puerto Rico. In fact, Rosario is one of the only three Puerto Rican players that are back from the regional final of 2016.

In theory, Mexico looks like the favorite team to achieve the only pass available to this group for the tournament's final phase. Mexico bring a squad with some young future stars, but they count on the solid base that has been their golden ticket during the past years, such as Point Guards Jorge Gutiérrez and Francisco “Paco” Cruz, as well as big men Héctor Hernández and Lorenzo Mata.

However, Valdeolmillos is cautious due to a rebuilt Puerto Rican team that only repeats one player (center Jorge Bryan Díaz), who went to the Olympic Qualifiers at Serbia.

“When I play against Puerto Rico I see two things: Puerto Rico has an offensive talent that's superior to ours, and Mexico has a superior defense. Each team must overpower with their asset. The ball moves because we're solid in the backside,” the Spanish Coach noted. He has overseen the Mexican team for six years.

Moreover, Point Guard Jorge Gutiérrez pointed out: “We've faced several battles. Puerto Rico is a challenging and talented team. In theory, there's nothing that you can think ‘this is what's going to work.’ We must play as a team and work on the defense.

On the Puerto Rican side, Coach Eddie Casiano acknowledged the strength Mexico bring to the initial AmeriCup match. “It's a team that has been together for a long time. They're doing very well in positions one through three. It's a very dangerous team,” Casiano noted.

“Their Point Guards have a lot of game. They must be controlled and we have to reduce the offensive rebounds,” added Díaz, Puerto Rico's center.