Tue. Feb 27th, 2024
Puerto Rico's Ismael Romero Fiba World Cup

Puerto Rico’s Ismael Romero in a Fiba World Cup game against South Sudan at Smart Araneta Coliseum. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines—Puerto Rico crashed South Sudan’s party with a 101-96 win in overtime in Group B of the Fiba World Cup 2023 at Araneta Coliseum on Saturday.

The Sudanese, who played in their first World Cup game in history, looked like they were ready to stun the world, only to be frustrated by the Puerto Ricans with a huge fourth quarter onslaught.

Then Puerto Rico, after needing to stage a comeback late the the game, took over for good in the overtime period to win its first assignment in this year’s World Cup.

“We just knew it was going to be like this, a crazy game. We have only one chance. We said after the first half, we need to change everything ‘cause they score too easily,” said Ismael Romero, who finished with a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds.

“In the second half, we switched everything. We played more defense and we have this result.”

The more experienced Puerto Ricans dug deep to show the Sudanese that the World Cup is a different animal in front of 3,116 basketball-crazed fans, erasing the African team’s seven-point lead with 6:30 left to play.

The Sudanese were ahead 72-65 before Stephen Thompson Jr. sank a fastbreak layup which sparked a 12-6 run that shaved South Sudan’s lead to one, 78-77, with 41.9 ticks left in the fourth.

Puerto Rico's Tremont Waters

Puerto Rico’s Tremont Waters in a Fiba World Cup game against South Sudan at Smart Araneta Coliseum. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

Romero then took matters into his own hands with a two-handed jam that finally put the Puerto Ricans in the driver’s seat. Tremont Waters then got fouled and nailed two more free throws to put Puerto Rico ahead, 81-78.

A triple by South Sudan star Carlik Jones, though, tied the game at 81-all, sending the game to extra time.

But the Puerto Ricans opened overtime with seven unanswered points, 88-81, sparked by an and-one bucket from George Conditt, who finished with 18 markers and 11 boards.

Helping Puerto Rico was former NBA player Waters, who finished with a double-double of 19 points and 10 assists, putting the double-double count of the Puerto Ricans at four.

Thompson  Jr. also registered a double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds for Puerto Rico.

Jones’ 38-point outburst was not enough for South Sudan while former Los Angeles Laker Wenyen Gabriel scattered 15 markers in a losing effort.

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By Sandra Winters

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