By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
There will be no Argentinian men’s national basketball team when the 2023 FIBA World Cup kicks off.
After making nine-consecutive FIBA World Cup appearances since 1982, one of the best basketball teams in the world failed to protect their legendary streak after falling at the hands of Dominican Republic, 79-75, during the final window of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers.
The 2019 FIBA World Cup silver medalists lost in a heartbreaker after building a 17-point lead with only 12 minutes remaining in the game.
Despite playing in a hostile crowd dominated by the Argentinians, the Dominican Republic squad balled their hearts out to complete the historic comeback held in Poliderpotivo Islas Malvinas in Mar del Plata, Argentina.
With 1:19 remaining in the nail-biting game, Dominican Republic’s young star Jean Montero carried the team after tying things at 71-all up with a sweet-looking jumper in the free throw line.
20 seconds after the game-tying bucket, Dominican Republic made the biggest stop of the game after a steal from Andres Feliz for a Victor Liz layup that put the visitors ahead, 75-73.
Montero then iced the game with a cold-blooded deuce in the final 19 seconds of the slugfest that extended their lead to four points.
“Our mentality was different when we entered the last quarter. We knew that we weren’t going to tie the game in a single possession, so we had to work on it. Coach told us that the last 3 minutes of the game would be key and that’s what happened. We got the win because we didn’t give up. I still can’t believe we’re going to the World Cup,” said Montero after the game.
The 19-year-old Montero paced Dominican Republic with 22 big points and also helped out in the defensive department with three made steals.
Argentina was the heavy favorite entering the game as the team is still loaded with talent headlined by former NBA point guard Facundo Campazzo, Gabriel Deck, Nicolas Laprovittola, and Marcos Delia.
“We didn’t knock them out and doubt started creeping in. This is a tough hit. Emotionally, we couldn’t get back up after they tied the game. It’s going to hurt to watch the World Cup on TV. It’s my responsibility,” said Argentina’s head coach Pablo Prigioni who was also a former player in the NBA.