Venezuela won their first FIBA Americas title after upsetting favourites Argentina 76-71 in Mexico City.
Both Venezuela and Argentina have advanced to the Rio Olympics, next summer.
Argentina though had built an early double-digit lead as they worked the ball into the low post. Taking advantage of Venezuela’s numerous mistakes, and a three by Andres Nocioni handed his side an 11-0 lead.
Venezuela looked out of ideas offensively.
Luis Scola, who was earlier honoured as the championship’s all-time leading scorer was key as Argentina continued to stay comfortably on top. But Venezuela remained in contention. A three-pointer by Graterol beat the first quarter buzzer and saw the Venezuelans cut the deficit to 20-13.
Everything changed at the start of the second quarter. The Venezuelans came back strong, defending hard and got to within 20-19 in the the first few minutes.
The Venezuelans kept knocking and a pair of free-throws from David Cubillán gave the Venezuelans their first lead of the night, 30-28, at the end of the second quarter.
Nestor Garcia’s men carried over that same intensity into the second half and an initial 4-0 run allowed them to take a 34-28 advantage.
Argentina, meanwhile, could not score with ease anymore and were suffering against their opponents’ stifling zone defence, going 1-of-11 from three-point range and scoring just eight points in a 14-minute stretch.
Venezuela’s patient ball movement resulted in success, while Nocioni and Nicola Laprovittola kept Argentina within striking distance and Sergio Hernandez’s men took and they were rewarded when a Scola basket gave Argentina a 52-49 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Nestor Colmenares’ return into the game in the final frame was decisive as Venezuela reclaimed the lead in the first three minutes of the period. A good defensive effort on Scola and four consecutive points saw the Venezuelans go up 57-54.
The game was turning into an instant classic as Selem Safar converted a four-point play to edge Argentina back in front by a point but the gutsy Venezuela unit did not lose their composure and instead stepped up the defensive intensity and scoring six unanswered points to pull away 63-58.
The spotlight shone bright on Venezuela in Mexico City.
Canada claimed the bronze medal after they beat hosts Mexico 87-86 thanks to a Corey Joseph buzzer-beater.