Hector Hernandez (MEX)
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National team stars take center stage at Liga de las Americas Final Four

RIO DE JANEIRO (DIRECTV Liga de las Americas) - Jose Neto is not the head coach of a national team right now, but he is likely to get a chance soon.

Ruben Magnano's assistant in the Brazil team has been pulling all of the right strings for Flamengo for the last 12 months and can add to his growing reputation with a second straight DIRECTV Liga de las Americas title this weekend.

The Rio de Janeiro outfit, which followed up last year's championship with an Intercontinental Cup victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv, host the FIBA Americas League Final Four for the second consecutive year.

Fellow Brazilians Bauru, Mexicans Pioneros de Quintana Roo and Penarol of Argentina also taking part.

Neto's Flamengo side, which includes Argentina internationals Nicolas Laprovittola and Walter Herrmann, and Brazil ace Marquinhos, has lost just once all season.

In the Preliminary Round, they fell to Pioneros, the hosts of Group B, yet still finished top of that pool.

Pioneros is the side they will face in Saturday night's second Semi-Final, while Liga Sudamericana winners Bauru will go up against Penarol in the first game.

"To win in the Final Four, we know we have to be consistent from beginning to end," Neto said.

"We worked in recent days to have this consistency."

If Flamengo lacked a little focus in their meeting with Pioneros, Neto says his team has learned from the setback.

"All defeats make us react," he said.

"In that game, we had a good start and deployed a very good offensive game and we knew how to control the Pioneros offense.

"Then we allowed a reaction of the Mexican team that cost us the game.

"Remember that in this group we suffered from the injuries of Marquinhos and Gege [Chaia], players that are important to maintain the rotation.

"Still, we went in the first place and qualified for the Semi-Finals of the Liga de las Americas.

"Now we face again this team and know the power they have.

"We have to be strong and seek victory from start to finish the match."

Flamengo were outstanding in Group F, going unbeaten after surviving a scare against Penarol in a battle for first place.

Mexico international Hector Hernandez, who played at last year's FIBA Basketball World Cup, had a big game (19 points and nine rebounds) when his team beat Flamengo.

The 2.04m forward hit three of his four shots from long range in that contest.

Pioneros also have an outstanding talent coming off the bench in Romel Beck, a player who last featured for Mexico's national team at the 2009 FIBA Americas Championship.

Facing Brazilian teams seems to bring out the best in Beck.

In the 85-71 Group E triumph over Sao Jose dos Campos, he scored 19 points and then two days later, in a 92-79 defeat to Bauru, Beck had 28 points.

Neto, meanwhile, is probably not the only FIBA Americas League coach that is going to get a shot at leading a national team one day.

Fernando Rivero has done a very good job at Penarol, a team gunning for its third FIBA Americas League crown.

Penarol hosted Group F and showed a tremendous fighting spirit, only losing to Flamengo, 88-86, when Laprovittola hit a game-winning shot in the waning seconds.

Rivero says his team has grown in confidence the past month and is excited about taking on Bauru, a team that has Brazil World Cup players Rafael Hettsheimer, Alex Garcia and Larry James Taylor.

One player that is not available, however, is sharpshooter Jefferson.

"They have a short rotation," Rivero said of the Bauru squad, "but very good and very intense rotation.

"They are very confident and have very good chemistry.

"So we must have patience and concentration throughout the game ..."

Bauru could go down as one of the all-time great teams in Brazil, meanwhile, if they win the FIBA Americas League and the Brazilian league.

They were hugely impressive at the end of 2014 in their Liga Sudamericana title run.

"It would be unheard of for Bauru, because it does not have this title," Hettsheimer said of the FIBA Americas League.

"This season, we took part in the Liga Sudamericana and won the championship, which allowed us access to the FIBA Americas League.

Now we want to win the continental title - Hettsheimer

"It would be great for the team and for our city, which is geared to basketball.

"The Brazil league title would also be extremely valuable..."