Puerto Rico achieved a valuable -and complicated- victory this Monday in the qualifying windows for the FIBA World Cup in 2023, by beating the Cuban team by a score of 69-60, in a match in which the Cubans were in command until the end of third period.
The Puerto Ricans needed this victory, after their 90-86 defeat to Mexico yesterday. It is the first victory of Nelson Columbus as leader of the National Team.
With today’s result, Puerto Rico closes with a 1-1 mark for the second window of February 2022. Cuba, which yesterday lost to the United States 95-90, ends with a 0-2 record.
The National Team trailed by 14 points, but adjusted their game to stay ahead and leave Cuba with few opportunities to score.
“This was a team victory”Colón said at the end of the match at a press conference.
“This was of all the players. Not one, not two, but the 11 who participated today. (Devon) Collier didn’t participate because he had a sore knee. I’m happy with the performance we had as a team, ”added the coach, who stressed that the team saw an improvement in less than 24 hours after the loss to Mexico.
For his part, Cuban striker Ysmael Romero acknowledged that the game had its share of emotion after facing his former teammates.
The player, who defected in 2012 when he arrived on the island to play in the Centrobasket, received this year the approval of the Cuban Basketball Federation to change his sporting nationality. This process culminated in October this year when FIBA approved the transfer, which made it possible for him to play for Puerto Rico.
“It really was a game of many emotions. They were 20 years in which I lived in Cuba, they were 20 years in which they educated me, they made me a person. I am very grateful for the country. Facing them for the first time is pretty tough. But I am a professional player, I made a decision and I am facing it in the best possible way, “he added.
Cuba took an advantage over Puerto Rico in the first set thanks to their offensive and defensive rebounds and a 10-0 rally, which gave them a 12-point lead to put the score 19-7 in their favor. This forced Colón to ask for time to reorganize the defense, but the national team had a timid reaction. This period closed 27-16 in favor of the Cubans, who came to have an advantage of up to 14 units.
For the second period, Puerto Rico began with a greater offensive intensity that led to cut Cuba’s advantage to six (27-21) with baskets from Isaac Sosa. In fact, Puerto Rico managed to reduce the lead to one point, but in the final minutes Cuba remained in front with free throws and two baskets of two Yoanki Mensia, to close the first half 43-37.
Puerto Rico – it did not begin to continue with its rebounding problems – tied the game at 50 per side with 1:22 to be played in the third period with Jordan Murphy’s basket, and managed to go to the front for the first time in the game with a free kick by Jonathan Rodríguez. The quarter closed 53-50 in favor of the Puerto Ricans, who did not give up the advantage in the fourth quarter.
Romero was the best scorer for the Puerto Ricans with 18 points and eight rebounds. Yoanki Mensia stood out on offense with 16 units.