Basketball: Venezuela Surprise at Men’s Americas Championship

Venezuela won its first tournament in the 2015 Men’s Americas Championships. The ten team tournament had two group stages. The first stage had two groups of five nations where the top four advance to the next round. The second group stage combined the eight advancing nations where results from the previous round carried over, minus results against the fifth place team. The top four would then advance to the semifinals. The top 2 highest ranked nations, minus Brazil whom qualified as hosts will qualify to the Olympics. The Men’s Americas Championships were held in Mexico City, Mexico from August 31st to September 12th 2015.

Mexico topped Group A by going undefeated. Since they were already qualified to the Olympics Brazil sent a weaker and younger team to gain experience. Their inexperience showed in the first match where Brazil suffered a 71-57 upset against Uruguay. Brazil performed better in their next two matches by defeating Dominican Republic 71-65 and narrowly losing to Mexico 65-58, but it showed up again in their final match against Panama where a 39-39 tie at half-time turned into a 89-72 win for Panama which ended up being costly as they were the lone team to be eliminated.

In Group B there was a lot of excitement towards Canada as they sent a strong, but young team to compete. Their youthfulness however was defeated by Argentina’s experience as they, led by Luis Scola whom scored 35 points defeated Canada 94-87 as Argentina would go on to win the group. After the loss Canada was able to refocus and win its other three matches defeating them by at least 20 points. By losing all four matches Cuba would be the team eliminated while Venezuela and Puerto Rico joined Argentina and Canada to the next round.

In the second round Canada would continue its impressive performance by going 4-0 in the round and 6-1 in the group including a 94-73 win over Mexico. The other anticipated match was between group winners Argentina and Mexico where the result would win them or Canada the group. It looked as if Argentina would win the match and group as they took a 72-59 lead into the fourth quarter. Mexico however ended up playing one of the most dominant quarters of the tournament to turn the deficit into a 95-83 win. With three teams finishing with a 6-1 record Canada ended up winning the group due to having a better head-to-head goal average. Venezuela was the fourth team to advance to the semifinals as they defeated Panama in their final match 75-62.

The first semi-final between Canada and Venezuela was, unlike their first encounter, very close. Any time Canada would push a lead Venezuela would come back and it looked as if the match was going to head into overtime. However a foul caused by Canada with 0.3 seconds remaining gave Venezuela a free throw in which they converted one of their throws to win the match and qualify to the Olympics with a score of 79-78. With a total collapse against Mexico still fresh in their minds Argentina began the match going basket for basket against Mexico. The match was tied 62-62 going into the fourth quarter where Argentina was able to build a bit of a lead to win and grab the second Olympic spot by winning 78-70.

The final between Venezuela and Argentina was a seesaw match that saw both teams take the lead. Venezuela ultimately won the tournament by winning 76-71. For the bronze medal and second time in a row Canada struggled to distance itself against Mexico and needed a comeback to win the match 87-86.

This will be Venezuela’s first appearance in the Olympics since 1992 while Argentina will look to improve their fourth place finish in 2012. While they did not qualify here Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico will have a second chance to qualify in the final Olympic qualifier to be held in 2016.

Tournament Rankings

  1. Venezuela
  2. Argentina
  3. Canada
  4. Mexico
  5. Puerto Rico
  6. Dominica Republic
  7. Panama
  8. Uruguay
  9. Brazil
  10. Cuba

References

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