Caracas, Venezuela. We are nearing the culmination of the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship. The semifinal matches are done and we will be in for a good battle between tournament leaders Puerto Rico and dark horse bet Mexico for the gold medal. Argentina and the Dominican Republic will face off to determine the bronze medalist.
Even though the Puerto Rican team has been very convincing in their victories against the other participants in the tournament, it was a surprising upset by Mexico that stunned them just a few days back, 66-59. Mexico has proven that they have what it takes to down Puerto Rico, but Puerto Rico’s semifinal win over the Dominican Republic – the only other team to beat them in the earlier rounds – showed that they are able to learn from their losses and come back with a vengeance.
Here are how the semifinal games played out.
Puerto Rico vs. Dominican Republic, 79:67
Puerto Rico put on their “guard attack” to down the Dominican Republic. Whether it was a matter of slashing to the basket or nailing the key jumper from three-point range, it was Puerto Rico’s guards that led the way in this contest. Carlos Arroyo (188 cm, FIU’01) had a fantastic all-around game, scoring 20 points, thanks to knocking down 4 of 8 of his triples, while also grabbing five rebounds and nabbing four steals. Jose Juan Barea (181 cm, Northeastern’06) proved to be a solid backcourt partner for Arroyo as he took care of sharing the ball with eight assists that went along with 16 points. Fellow starters Renaldo Balkman (201 cm, South Carolina’06) and Ricardo Sanchez (212 cm) added 13 and 12 points respectively.
The Dominican Republic team just couldn’t get things going. Eulis Baez (198 cm, Western Illinois’05) was the only one able to hit double figures with 12 points and six rebounds.
Mexico vs. Argentina, 76:70
At the center of this game was a duel between two of the tournament’s most valuable big men, Argentina’s Luis Scola (206 cm) and Mexico’s Gustavo Ayon (209 cm, San Jose State’07). Ayon was the more dominant force in this game as he led his team with 24 points, 12 rebounds and two steals, making his presence felt in the paint on both ends of the court. Fellow starter, Hector Hernandez (206 cm, Fresno State’08), was also helpful down low as he ended the contest with nine points and seven boards.
It was defense that made the difference in this battle. When Mexico’s shot was not falling from deep, they opted to grind things out and deny the Argentinians the benefit of the long bomb as well.
Scola was stifled, as he was held to only 5 of his 16 attempts from the field. He did manage to finish with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Argentinian guards Facundo Campazzo (179 cm) and Selem Safar (190 cm) chipped in 14 and 11 points respectively, but that was the extent of the support that Scola received as the Mexican defense effectively shut down Argentina’s efforts on the offensive end.