With South American heavyweight nation Brazil eliminated in the first round, the field was extended for a surprise nation to maybe make a run.
And Mexico took full advantage, beating favourites Puerto Rico 91-89 in the final.
“I can’t put into words what it feels like to do something as historic as this for our country,” Mexican NBA center Gustavo Ayon said, as he followed up a 24-point, 12 rebound effort in the 76-70 semi-final win against Argentina with 20 points and 16 rebounds in the final.
The back-to-back double-doubles also ensured Ayon the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.
After a close first period, the final few minutes belonged to the Mexicans as they went on a 6-0 run to establish a 26-18 lead after the first ten minutes. The Puerto Ricans, led by Carlos Arroyo’s 23 points then pulled the gap to just 48-45 at the half, which included the ejection of Mexico head coach Sergio Valdeolmillos.
Without their leader, the Mexicans plugged away and they once again pulled away again in the third, leading 69-63 before another fightback from Puerto Rico in the fourth, which set-up a thrilling finale.
With seven seconds left in regulation, Arroyo brought the ball up court for the Puerto Ricans with his side down 90-89. He misread the play and threw the ball out of bounds. With the Mexicans only able to connect on one from two at the line, Galindo had the chance to win it for Puerto Rico, but his open three-point attempt was agonisingly short and Mexico celebrated.
Mexico and Puerto Rico both qualify for the FIBA World Cup, held next year in Spain, along with Argentina who finished third and Dominican Republic, who missed out on a podium finish but have booked a ticket to the World Cup in any event.