MEDELLIN (Colombia) – Puerto Rico went into the last window of the Americas Qualifiers needing to win both of their games on the road and that’s exactly what they did. First, they got past Brazil on a buzzer-beater and then they travelled to Colombia, where they defeated the home country on Sunday in a tight, 87-80 game.
That allowed them to reach their objective of reaching the 15th World Cup in their history (10th straight), after finishing the tournament with an 8-4 record – good enough for second place in Group F, tied with Mexico and Brazil, thanks to owning the tie breaker.
All in all, the Caribbean squad closed the Qualifiers on a 4-game winning streak.
Point guard Jordan Howard came off the bench and led the Puerto Rican offense with 18 points on four three-pointers. Gian Clavell added 14 points, Tremont Waters had 12 and 7 assists and Chris Ortiz chipped in 11.
Braian Angola and Andrés Ibargüen (12 rebounds) scored 20 and 17 points, respectively, for Colombia, while Michael Jackson and Romario Roque added 10 apiece.
Puerto Rico opened a 20-12 lead toward the end of the first quarter on a basket from Ismael Romero and finished the period up 25-20. They then extended the lead to double digits (34-24) on another Romero dunk midway through the second. However, Colombia tried to put on a good showing for their fans despite being eliminated and fought back – getting within 5 points (41-36) at halftime and then tying the game at 60 at the end of the third quarter.
But the visiting squad opened the final stanza on a 6-0 run and managed to administer the lead the rest of the way. A dagger three-pointer from Howard made it 85-73 with 1:35 left in regulation, and then big man George Conditt put the game away with a dunk to keep the double-digit lead (87-75) with 1:02 to go.
Colombia wrapped up their participation with a 3-9 record.