Mexico storms into title game
CARACAS, Venezuela -- The Mexican national basketball team still doesn't want to wake up from a dream. Its qualification to the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain was already an unexpected joy and now, after having defeated Argentina, 76-70, Tuesday night in the FIBA Americas Championship semifinals, the Mexicans are fighting to get that gold.
The dream state has everything to do with the first medal that the national team will win in the FIBA Americas tourney. With a silver medal assured, the players will be seeking to crown themselves as champions Wednesday when they face Puerto Rico (WatchESPN, 7:50 p.m. ET), something that they have within their reach.
"We're changing history," Mexico's Gustavo Ayon said after once again leading his team with 24 points and 12 rebounds.
"We have to keep working. Advancing to the World Cup is history. This semifinal game [was] historic. We have to keep working day to day so that this can keep growing. If you leave it at that, it can all come apart again," said Ayon, who will play for the Atlanta Hawks next season.
Lorenzo Mata, who scored nine points and had five rebounds, said Mexico could win the title by following the right formula: teamwork and humbleness.
"I think that [the] gold [medal] is within our reach. [Wednesday] is the last game that we'll have and hopefully we get it," Mata said.
"We beat Argentina, who has a lot of players that are real good but we won as a team and that's how it should be," Ayon said.
The Mexicans overcame the Argentines in a game in which both sides felt the impact of a demanding tournament schedule. Orlando Mendez did not play in the second half, and Hector Hernandez was injured toward the end of the game.
"It was an intense game and both teams were very tired," Ayon said. "You could see both teams were out there shaken up and really playing below their norm."
"It's normal. The ninth game we played in less than 10 days is totally normal and I saw that whomever took that step forward was going to win," reasoned Ayon, who's averageg 16.4 points and 8.0 rebounds in 25 minutes a game. He played 37 minutes in the win over Argentina.
"I think that the team has been playing really good on defense. It's been very intense except for the games against Argentina and Canada in which we came out slow on defending, and we're not a talented team," said Ayon.
"We're a hard-working team that's going to play some good defense. Offensively, things will start to come along. We're not a team that has six or seven weapons. We have to work on defense and that's the key for why we are here," he said.
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