The Mexican National Team stunned Puerto Rico 91-89 in the FIBA Americas championship game on Sept. 11. The victory is Mexico’s first championship in the competition, Mexico’s highest finish previously was fifth.
The game started very dynamic as both teams ran the floor well and scoring came easy.
Mexico took an early 13-6 lead, after going on a 7-0 lead behind four points by Lorenzo Mata and three points by Jovan Harris. Puerto Rico responded with buckets by J.J. Barea and Renaldo Balkman to cut the deficit to 13-11. Mexico closed the quarter on another 6-0 run and led 26-18.
Puerto Rico picked up their defensive intensity in the early part of the second quarter, forcing Mexico to take off balance shots that generated counter fast breaks that led to a 10-0 run, to tie the game at 28. Mid-way through the quarter, Mexico and Puerto Rico perimeter shooting exploded and from there the teams exchanged triples. Mexico led 48-45 at halftime.
Barea hit a jumper to put Puerto Rico up 59-57 with 3:27 left in the third quarter. Puerto Rico would score 12 of the game’s next 20 points to take a 71-65 lead into the final stanza. Daniel Santiago scored six points and Barea chipped in with four during this run.
Mexico came out strong in the fourth quarter. Harris scored seven consecutive points to give Mexico a 73-71 lead. But Alex Galindo knocked down a triple to put Puerto Rico up again. From that point, neither team led by more than three points and the game was tied three times. Jose Gutierrez tied the game for the last time with a pair of free throws at 89 apiece with 1:10 remaining. 27 seconds later, Mata would put Mexico ahead with a couple of free throws.
Puerto Rico had a chance to tie the game with 33 seconds remaining, however, Santiago only made one-of-his two free throws. Following turnovers by both teams, Puerto Rico fouled Paul Stoll. Stoll made one-of-two free throws to give Puerto Rico one more chance but Galindo’s three-pointer missed the mark as the buzzer sounded.
Gustavo Ayon posted his fifth double-double of the tournament to lead Mexico. Ayon, who was named the tournament’s MVP, tallied 20 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, including six on the offensive end. Harris led the team with 23 points while Mata had 14 points and Gutierrez contributed 11 points.
Carlos Arroyo led Puerto Rico with 23 points and Barea finished with 20. Balkman closed a tremendous tournament with 14 points.
Both Mexico and Puerto Rico have qualified for the 2014 World Cup.