Bahamas shock Argentina, qualify for FIBA OQT next year
SANTIAGO DEL ESTERO (Argentina) - Bahamas traveled to Argentina, defeated the hosts and favorites twice in the same week and walked away as the FIBA Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament 2023 Argentina winners after prevailing in the final, 82-75, at Estadio Ciudad in Santiago del Estero, Argentina.
Chris Demarco assembled an incredible squad, and everyone contributed their fair share toward the goal, with the stars shining and the role players filling all the gaps.
With the result, the islanders finished the tournament with a 4-0 record. Their win on Sunday punched their ticket to one of next year's FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments.
With Argentina playing a near flawless game for most of the night, Bahamas found themselves down 73-71 with 2:53 left in the fourth quarter when Facundo Campazzo stole the ball in the backcourt, ran the full length of the floor and converted a tough, contested layup:
But before the home crowd could savor the moment, Eric Gordon went supernova.
The Phoenix Suns guard hit a step back three-pointer. Then, after Carlos Delfino once again put Argentina up 75-74, Gordon drained another.
And after Argentina failed to score in their next two possessions, Gordon decided it was time to go home. His third long-range strike put Bahamas up 80-75 with 20 seconds left and sealed the deal.
Player of the Game
Bahamas got significant contributions from several players, but they don't win this game without Gordon.
The 34-year-old ran the offense throughout the night and scored a game-high 27 points, shooting 8-13 from the field and 6-7 from downtown in a game where Bahamas was held to just 42 percent from the floor.
He also added 3 rebounds and 3 steals, one of them in the clutch as Argentina was trying to regain the lead.
His late addition to the roster proved to be the difference for an already stacked squad.
In the end, Bahamas' raw talent won out.
They brought to Argentina a roster featuring 3 bona fide NBA starters and a head coach who sits next to Steve Kerr in Golden State's bench.
And even though Deandre Ayton (10 points and 21 rebounds) and Buddy Hield (17 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists) had rough shooting nights in the final, Demarco was still able to call upon Travis Munnings, Franco Miller or Kentwan Smith for an extra push in key moments of the game.
Now Bahamas has an excellent shot to make it to Paris 2024 if they're able to keep the squad intact and possibly add Charlotte Hornets' center Kai Jones.
For Argentina, this second loss to Bahamas in the week caps a disappointing 2023 after they failed to qualify to this year's FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Campazzo (14 points and 17 assists) and Gabriel Deck (21 points and 6 rebounds) had stellar performances, while younger guys like Francisco Cáffaro and Juan Fernández showed they're ready for bigger roles.
However, the team missed Luca Vildoza (injured during Saturday's semifinal game against Chile) and seemed to lack some offensive variety down the stretch without Nicolás Laprovíttola, unavailable for this tournament.
But a giant of this magnitude won't stay down for long.