20 - 26
May 2016
2016 South American Women's Championship tips-off in Barquisimeto
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2016 South American Women's Championship tips off in Barquisimeto

BARQUISIMETO (2016 South American Women's Championship) - The 2016 South American Women's Championship tips off on Friday in Barquisimeto, Venezuela where nine teams will compete for the gold medal of the region and a chance to advance to next year's FIBA Americas Women's Championship.

Brazil have been the dominant team in the history of the competition, winning the last 15 editions dating back to 1986. The squad is led by the veteran trio of center Nadia Colhado who imposes her strength in the paint (12.7 points, 11.3 rebounds per game at the 2015 FIBA Americas Women's Championship); Iziane Castro who boasts a proficient offensive game (14.8 points per game at the 2015 FIBA Americas Women's Championship); and Gilmara Justino who provides effectiveness in transition (10.3 points per game and 70.4 percent shooting from the field at the 2015 FIBA Americas Women's Championship).

The defending champs are still favorites but Argentina is inspired and recent history is on their side. In last year’s FIBA Americas Championship, the Argentineans broke a 59-year losing streak to Brazil by beating them in their first round matchup 73-69 and then proceeded to beat them once more in the Bronze medal game by the score of 66-59.

They won both games and finished third in the competition with a distributed offensive attack that starred veteran Gisela Vega, Ornella Santana, Celia Fiorotto, Macarena Rosset and is led by exciting point guard Melisa Gretter. The team is practically intact from last year’s tournament and is looking to make history by winning their first South American Championship since 1948.

Venezuela wants to extend their momentum at the international women’s level at home in this 2016 edition. The team will have a busy summer on their way to the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament set to be played in Nantes Métropole, France on June 13-19, but is excited about putting on a show for their home fans in Barquisimeto. Breakthrough star of the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship, Roselys Silva is on board for a repeat of what was an incredible tournament performance in which she averaged 14 points for the team.

The host is hoping for a magical run that lands them in the finals with an opportunity to upset and become the first-ever South American champions from the country. To do that, center Ana Garcia and her ability to stay disciplined and out of foul trouble will be key. Her length is unique for the team represents the only chance for them to match-up against the big players from Brazil and Argentina in the paint.

Chile and Paraguay are teams defined by the players that could not make it to Barquisimeto, as stars Ziomara Morrison and Paola Ferrari respectively won’t suit up for the 2016 edition. Morrsion is a former WNBA player that had one of the most impressive statistic tournaments in recent memory in the 2014 South American Championship averaging 27.6 points and 14.6 points per game; while Ferrari is a career 28 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game player that simply cannot be replaced.

Their absence makes both teams vulnerable to opponents that otherwise would be outmatched in the court. In this specific case, Colombia now has a shot to beat them both and qualify to the semifinals, making Group A a very competitive affair.

The Group Phase tips off on Friday with Chile facing off against Colombia and Uruguay against Brazil beginning at 14.00hs GMT-4 from Barquisimeto, Venezuela.

This championship qualifies the best four (4) teams to the 2017 FIBA Women's Americas Championship.

All games of the 2016 South American Women's Championship can be watched live online on DIRECTV (South America), Meridiano (Venezuela) and online via livebasketball.tv (subscription required).

Go to fiba.com/sudamericanofemenino/2016 for complete coverage of the competition.